Franklin Regional swim team enjoys surprise success
Longtime Franklin Regional swimming coach Vic Santoro was expecting this season to be a rebuilding year. Until it wasn’t.
“At the beginning of the season, if you would have told me that we would win both sections and the girls would’ve repeated (as) WCCA (champs), I would said that wasn’t possible,” said Santoro, in his 27th season as Panthers coach. “Hopefully we can parlay that into a trip out to states.”
Santoro is running three practices ahead of the WPIAL swimming and diving championships. The event will take place from Feb. 28 to March 1 at Pitt’s Trees Pool.
He is either tapering his swimmers for Saturday’s last-chance meet, which Franklin Regional will be hosting, or in the process of getting his WPIAL qualifiers ready for a taper for the WPIAL championships.
“Everything is coming to a head,” Santoro said. “It’s almost like having two different seasons. It’s a long season. We officially started in November with no breaks, training three hours a day, six days week, and coming and going when it’s dark out.”
On the boys side, freshman standout Owen Holm punched his ticket to WPIALs in every event. Holm finished second (48.95 seconds) in the 100-yard freestyle at January’s Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association swimming and diving championships. Santoro isn’t sure which events Holm will compete in.
“We’ll take a look across the state and see what his times look like,” Santoro said. “As a freshman, it’s kind of a long shot.”
Senior Patrick Cavanaugh also has clinched a spot in the postseason. Cavanaugh finished third (1:00.51) the 100 breaststroke and swam anchor to help lead the Panthers to a second-place finish (3:19.63) in the 400 freestyle relay at the WCCAs. Cavanaugh finished eighth in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke at last year’s WPIAL championships.
Freshman Annika Albright will get her first taste of the WPIAL championships. Albright won the 100 butterfly (59.39) and finished second (1:00.81) in the 100 backstroke at January’s WCCAs. Albright also has qualified in every event except the 100 breaststroke.
It was the overall performance by the girls team that surprised the Santoro this season. The blend of youth and experience won the Section 3-3A title and back-to-back WCCA girls team titles.
“For the girls, the pieces fit in just right,” Santoro said. “We probably had a half-dozen freshman girls that stepped right in and helped us earn points.”
Santoro also is hoping for some team points from his divers. Senior Mason Fishell is the Panthers’ best chance on the boys side. Fishell, who made it to states two years ago, came away with a second-place finish (496.20) in the 1-meter dive at WCCAs.
Senior tandem Elissa Novelli and Julia Perry will make return trips in the 1-meter dive. Both reached the WPIAL championships but fell short of the cut. The top five divers advance to states.
“If you have one bad dive or it’s not perfect, that’s enough to knock you out,” Santoro said. “It’s hard, and there’s some very, very talented divers out there.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.