A-K Valley Senior Spotlight: Plum’s Nina Ricciuti

Monday, March 20, 2023 | 12:46 PM

For swimmers all over, qualifying for the PIAA championships is a huge accomplishment.

The Plum Mustangs not only qualified for the state meet, but they also broke some school records along the way. Among the roster of talented swimmers is senior Nina Ricciuti.

Most notably, the 200 freestyle relay team of Nina and her sister Giuliana Ricciuti, Dominique Massie and Amelia Faust broke the school record at the WPIAL meet.

“This was my fourth year competing at the WPIAL championships, and it was the best one yet,” Ricciuti said. “I competed in the 50 freestyle and all three relays, and I made the podium in all of my events. I was so proud of how the girls worked together to perform at their best.”

Ricciuti is the daughter of Desiree and Dominic Ricciuti. She is the swim team captain, a member of the Girls Leadership Association, a member of the Family YMCA Club team, a MB Prom Ambassador, and A Student Visionaries of the Year team member for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Ricciuti also is a holder of four YMCA ream records.

“I’ve been swimming for a little over 10 years,” Ricciuti said. “I chose swimming as my sport because of my childhood best friend, Meredith Benton. We did everything together and swimming was one of those things.”

Ricciuti took some time out of her busy schedule to sit down and answer some questions for a Senior Spotlight Q&A:

How did you train in the offseason in preparation for your senior season?

I spent more time in the weight room as I wanted to gain more muscle for my pull and kick to get stronger. I also tried to focus on my mental health. After the covid-19 shutdowns, I started to experience performance anxiety, and it’s a terrible feeling when I psych myself out. But I am blessed to have such a strong support system with the coaches, my teammates and every parent in the stands. I would especially like to thank Mrs. Christina Woltjen, who encouraged me to get back in the water and race for the first time in nine months.

Last year, you swam longer races. Why did you go with a shorter race?

I was the most confident in the 50-yard freestyle, and seeing where I was seeded for the 50, I wanted to see if I could make the top 10 and get a personal best. I knew that if I were to swim the 200 freestyle, it would’ve been a completely different meet.

Do you like the shorter races better, and what advice do you have for competing in longer races?

I do enjoy the 50 free the most. When practicing, focus on the small details, like the catch of the water, flip turns and even breathing patterns. Trying to perfect those finer details to the best of your ability will give you the best chance of dropping time, and coming out on top.

What was it like to swim with your sister in the 200 free relay?

Getting to swim with her is truly wonderful. We hold each other to high standards as we push and encourage each other to do our best, and deep down, we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. I’m very lucky that I get to swim with someone so talented. I truly look up to her, even though she’s younger than me. I’m going to miss swimming with Giuliana, but I’m excited to see all of the things she’ll accomplish.

Along with swimming second in the 200, you swam first in the 400 and anchored the 200. What is it like to swim different legs?

Coach Shawn (Haupt) is very strategic when it comes to the order of our relays. He does his best trying to organize us in an order that will not only benefit us as a team but as individuals. Wherever he decides to put me, that’s where I swim.

Tell me a little bit about the regular season.

I would describe it as a roller coaster. We had some good days and bad days, but we learned from them no matter what. The Mustang girls team had a record of 11-1 and we were section runner-ups.

I was and still am so proud of the girls. We also had a lot of individuals make their first individual WPIAL cuts and it was great to watch them achieve their personal goals and swim their best.

How do you prepare for meets?

Before just about every meet, my sister and I will sit in the hallway of our bedrooms and stretch out a few minutes before we head to the high school. After warmups, I’ll put on my headphones and try to calm my nerves. Up until my event, I’ll take my headphones off and remind myself that I’m doing this for me.

What does leadership mean to you as a senior?

On my first day of senior practice, my dad sent me this text and every time I think of leadership, I recite this: “A leader leads by example, both in and out of the pool. It’s being a protector and supporter of your team. It’s your responsibility to bring all the individuals together as one. To love, support, and protect each other and all that they do.”

What is your favorite hype song?

Thunderstruck by AC/DC

What is one tradition that the team does on meet days?

The girls go into the locker room for a dance party and some karaoke. We also have two cheers we do before the meet starts. I also go on Starbucks runs with my sister before meets too.

What are your future plans? Is swimming included?

As of now, I’m still deciding between two schools, one in which I’d swim for their club team and the other where I would compete to represent their school name.

Tell me a little bit about your senior class and what makes you stand out.

There were a total of seven seniors and we were all girls. Some of us have been swimming together since we were little and it’s amazing to see how we’ve all grown. We are all talented in different ways and come together to work as a team. I’m glad to have grown up with these girls and sad that our time together has come to an end. I wish them all the best of luck with their future plans.

What advice would you like to leave with your teammates?

The sport of swimming isn’t easy. It takes so much time, energy, physical and mental strength to reach the goals you have set for yourself. When times get tough, remember why you started and who you’re doing this for. Support your teammates, swim fast, but most importantly, enjoy it. Time goes by faster than you realize.


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