Burrell swimmers take aim at WPIAL qualifying times

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 | 10:54 AM

The Burrell swim teams still are recovering from last year’s pandemic.

“We are just happy to have a full season,” coach Samantha Callen said. “Last year was quite challenging. Our swimmers have been working extra hard to achieve the goals that were not met last year. This season is going very well for our team. We have seen time drops by every swimmer. Those drops reflect hard work and dedication. We still have a good bit of the season left, and we cannot wait to see what our swimmers have in store.

“Swimming is a sport that helps develop life skills, such as discipline, time management and communication. Our philosophy is to ensure our swimmers are given every opportunity to improve and advance their skills and achieve their goals for both themselves and their team.”

Among the top swimmers at Burrell this season are sophomores Nick Ciuffoletti and Chloe Walton and junior David Matovcik.

Ciuffoletti has qualified for the automatic WPIAL time in the 100-yard freestyle, and Walton and Matovcik have achieved secondary WPIAL times.

Ciuffoletti has set several personal goals for the season.

“My first goal is to break 23 seconds in the 50 free, my second is to break 57 seconds in the 100 fly and my third is to break 50 seconds in the 100 free,” he said. “The 100 free is definitely my strongest event and my favorite event.”

Ciuffoletti believes “the sky is the limit” for the Bucs in 2021-22.

“We have a very optimistic group of guys representing Burrell this year,” he said. “We all come in to practice every day feeling blessed with the opportunity to get better. The majority of guys have dropped large amounts of time from last year.”

Ciuffoletti, who has a 4.35 GPA, started swimming in fifth grade and is competing for Burrell for the first time. He previously has trained and competed for the Cavalier Swim Club in Kiski.

“Grades are something I take very seriously,” he said, “and I always put school before sports.”

The Burrell underclassman is a dual-sport athlete, as he also participates in the track and field program in the spring. Ciuffoletti specializes in the jumping events and advanced to the WPIAL championships in the high jump last year.

Ciuffoletti and Matovcik are joined on the boys swim team by Ryan Griffith, Shane Jablonski, David Aliyetti, Anthony Roman, Levi Haas and Braeden Mechesney.

Walton, meanwhile, has been focused mainly on one thing since the start of this season: securing a spot in the WPIAL championships.

“My personal goal is to just make it to WPIALs,” she said. “Last season, we unfortunately did not get to go to WPIALs because of covid. They changed the (qualifying) times and made them a lot faster.

“This season, I swam the 200 freestyle and I got the old WPIAL cut, but I have yet to get any of the new qualifying times. I would love more than anything in the world to get to go this year. And I want as many of our girls (as possible) to be able to go to WPIALs so we can all experience it together.”

That is particularly true of the Burrell relay members.

Walton competes in the relays with her sister, Carly, along with Grace Giordano and Izzy Leger. All three are seniors.

“Carly, Grace and Izzy have been some of the best friends I could have ever asked for,” Walton said. “They welcomed me to the team last year and made me feel like I was a part of it. All of them mean so much to me, but I really want to speak out for my sister, who’s always been with me while swimming. People say we are (two) of the closest sisters they know.

“Carly is the person who pushes me the most. She is truly my best friend. Swimming with her is my absolute favorite thing. I have no idea what I will do when she graduates and I’m all alone.

“Swimming with these girls has impacted my life so much. I love them all with my whole heart, and I am so excited to swim the rest of the season with them.”

The Burrell sophomore began swimming in fourth grade and has participated in club programs since her younger days. She is in her second season on the varsity squad. She played in tennis in the fall and plans to join the track and field program this spring.

“I always try my hardest to have the highest GPA as I can,” said Walton, who owns a 3.9 GPA. “This year, I started branching out with my sports.”

Juliana Gorsuch, Kaylee Armando, Morgan Swahn, Auri Heinrich, Diyora Rakhimova and Liz Lagattuta round out Burrell’s girls team.

The Bucs compete in Section 4-2A and are joined by Derry, Freeport, Greensburg Salem, Indiana, Laurel Highlands, Ligonier Valley, Mt. Pleasant and Valley. With nine teams, it is one of the largest sections in the WPIAL.

Both Burrell squads had 1-2 early season records with wins against Greensburg Salem.

“We are in a tough section that includes some large, competitive teams,” Callen said. “Our expectations are that our swimmers achieve a lot of individual goals.

“This is my seventh year coaching, and, if you can believe it, each year gets more exciting. We get new swimmers, we take on new challenges and it allows us to grow as coaches. We are very proud of how well our team is performing this season.”

Callen is assisted by Diane Swigart.


More High School Sports

Yough’s Terek Crosby scores 2,000th point in playoff loss to Shady Side
WPIAL announces playoff sites, times for Tuesday basketball semifinals
A-K Valley athletes of the week: Deer Lakes’ Collin Rodgers, Kiski Area’s Veronica Flanagan
Nearly a national record holder, Butler’s Drew Griffith running the best he ever has
After sweeping section titles, Franklin Regional swimmers speed into WPIAL meet