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Mars boys swimmers bask in WPIAL gold

| Saturday, March 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Mars swimmer Francis Folz, shown in a 2014 photo, will be returning to the PIAA swimming championships, competing in the 50 and 100 freestyle events
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
A Mars Area High School swimmer Reed McDonough (top) seems to float in the air as dives into the pool during a meet at Shaler Area High School earlier in the season.

It's quality over quantity for the Mars boys swim team.

That's how it's always been and this year is no different, as the Planets team captured a WPIAL Class AA championship with just six swimmers — Chris Georgiadis, Francis Folz, Joseph Folz, Reed McDonough, Tom Pierre and Jimmy Pierre — competing in the event.

Mars not only won its program's first championship, but did it with ease as the Planets' 233 points was well ahead of second-place Quaker Valley (170.5).

“It was really impressive,” Mars coach Heidi Brandon said. “We thought we had a good chance of being runner-up, but to win is just icing on the cake.”

The Planets took second at the WPIAL meet last year.

“It was an all-around great meet for all of us,” Georgiadis said. “We all swam really well.”

This season, Mars had an idea it could compete at a very high level when it cruised to its first section championship with a 6-0 record.

“It was really exciting because we were able to beat Shady Side Academy,” Brandon said. “We were so pumped for that, we almost had a letdown after that. I had to remind them they had another meet to go.”

The Planets hoped to capture the Midwestern Athletic Conference title, but finished fourth behind Quaker Valley, West Allegheny and Hopewell.

“We had a nice showing, but nothing anywhere near like we did at WPIALs,” Brandon said. “I always believe if you have a poor MAC showing, you do much better at WPIALs.”

That was the case for the Planets. All six of their swimmers earned team points at the WPIAL meet and qualified for the PIAA Class AA championship meet Friday and Saturday at Bucknell University.

Tom Pierre, Francis Folz, McDonough and Georgiadis teamed up to capture two relay golds for Mars — the 200 medley and 400 freestyle. The Planets defended their 400 freestyle relay championship. Last year, they snapped Shady Side Academy's 13-year championship run in the event. This season, Mars nearly won in record time.

“The only thing we missed was beating Shady Side's record,” Brandon said. “We can't be sad that we won. We just missed the record by about a half second.”

Georgiadis picked up individual gold medals in the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley, where Tom Pierre finished second.

“For the state meet, I am seeded first and Tom is seeded third,” Georgiadis said. “We hope to go 1-2 again.”

Francis Folz won gold in the 100 freestyle and was fourth in the 200 freestyle. McDonough was fourth in the 50 freestyle and Tom Pierre was fifth in the 500 freestyle. They qualified for the PIAA meet in those events.

Joseph Foltz was seventh in the 500 freestyle and 13th in the 200 freestyle, and Jimmy Pierre was eighth in the 500 freestyle and 12th in the 200 individual medley.

Planets freshman diver Taylor Hockenberry will compete in the PIAA girls championship meet this weekend at Bucknell as well. She finished second at the WPIAL championship meet. Freshman Izzy Wroblewski was 10th.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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