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Franklin Regional swimmers, divers prepare for WPIALs

| Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Doug Gulasy | Murrysville Star
Franklin Regional sophomore Tyler Stevenson competes in the 200-yard individual medley during a meet against Penn-Trafford on Jan. 10, 2014, at Penn-Trafford High School.

Franklin Regional swimming and diving coach Vic Santoro found himself having to “disappoint a few kids” Monday.

With the WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships a week away, the hard decisions are just beginning.

Franklin Regional swimmers are preparing for the championships, which are set for Feb. 27 and 28 at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool. The diving championship will be held this Saturday.

The Panthers qualified 25 swimmers for the championships in various events. Because teams are only allowed to have four swimmers competing in each individual event, and because Franklin Regional had as many as eight swimmers qualify in some events, Santoro had to make tough calls on who will get the chance to compete.

“I had to break a couple kids' hearts today,” Santoro said Monday, the deadline to submit to the WPIAL a list of who would swim in individual events.

Identifying the swimmers who will compete in relays promises to be another difficult decision. Aside from senior Alyssa Ruffing, who is “probably the only real lock” to swim in relays on the girls side, Santoro will spend the next week figuring out who would swim in what relay and which relays he planned to stack.

“What we'll do is prepare for a couple different scenarios,” he said. “As we get closer, we'll start to firm up what we think we're going to go with. But that can change all the way up till the actual relay is called up. Last year, we switched personnel at the last minute based on how they swam their individual events. The kids will know we'll do the same thing this year.

“We'll prepare with several different scenarios in mind, but ultimately we have to put whoever's performing the best that day up to do it because we want to try to get the kids up to states and get the kids up on the medal stand.”

The Panthers finished the dual season last week by sweeping Kiski. The girls team won the section championship for the seventh time in eight years after finishing second last season, while the boys secured a second-place finish — the first time since 2006 the boys team didn't win the section title.

“It was very nice for the girls to be able to bring it back,” Santoro said. “I was happy for them. It was tough for the boys because it was the first time in a number of years that we lost it. But the situation was out of our control. We did our best with what we could, and it is what it is.”

With the dual season over, the Panthers are in “full taper mode,” decreasing the volume and intensity of their training in preparation for WPIALs. As a result, Santoro said, the swimmers' energy levels are beginning to increase.

Santoro said the team's tapering strategy changes from year to year.

“This year, we're probably just going for it at WPIALs,” he said. “Now, there will be a couple kids that may have a little bit left to go. ... We're pretty much going for it at WPIALs. The key is to get the kids to states this year.”

Senior Nieko Santoro, coach Santoro's son, recently returned to the lineup after missing some time because of mononucleosis and will putting much of his effort into helping the boys relays at WPIALs.

The Panthers expected to face some hurdles in training because of the weather and a scheduled Franklin Area Swim Team meet this weekend at the middle school, where the Panthers generally practice. Santoro said his team would have to find another practice location this weekend.

Santoro said he hoped to see as many Franklin Regional competitors as possible qualify for next month's PIAA championships, beginning with divers Rena Gerber, Andrew Sederholm and Kevin Schon this weekend.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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