Experience with premier program guiding new North Hills swim coach

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Saturday, January 22, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Nicole Loutsenhizer has been around swimming’s best for years. And now she is ready to carry over those experiences to the North Hills program.

Loutsenhizer is in her first season leading the Indians after spending time in Virginia with Nation’s Capital Swim Club, the largest organized swim team in the country and one that has produced numerous Olympians, including one of the most decorated athletes in American swimming history, Katie Ledecky.

“It gave me the basis for all of my coaching knowledge,” Loutsenhizer said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity I had there. I was there for seven years. I got to spend time at the Olympic Training Center out in Colorado Springs, and I got to do a whole bunch of awesome things out there.

“I had exposure to a lot of international, Hall of Fame swim coaches, people who have great legacies of Olympic champions. Being able to work with them and learn from them, I’m hoping to bring all of that excitement, that energy to North Hills to help them grow, as well.”

Loutsenhizer moved to Pittsburgh to work for Highmark and AHN, and decided she still had the desire to keep coaching. That’s when Pine-Richland coach Pete Barry alerted her to the opening at North Hills.

From there, everything came together nicely, said Loutsenhizer, who also coaches club swimming in the North Hills.

Now the Indians are seven swim meets into the season, and Loutsenhizer is pleased with her new group.

“I’m thrilled. The kids are great,” Loutsenhizer said. “I couldn’t ask for a more energetic group, and I’m really thankful for them. I’m a new coach and a new style for them, so the adjustment — while I know it wasn’t easy for a lot of them — I think we have come a long way and made great strides. And we communicate really well.”

The boys team has been tasked with the loss of a very accomplished swimmer in Josh Bogniard, who won 2021 WPIAL titles in the 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke events and who is now swimming at Ohio State.

But Loutsenhizer has been impressed with a couple of male swimmers who have taken on larger roles this year.

“(Senior) Owen Pastorius has really stepped up to fill some of those gaps,” she said. “He has full intentions of swimming in college next year. And we have a couple of freshmen boys, especially Cory Chen and Conor Greer, they have really taken over some of the gaps left by Josh.”

The girls side has had a little more luxury in returning athletes. Seniors Maddie Mahoney and Jewel Thomas each qualified with multiple relay teams last season. Thomas made the cut for the 200-yard individual medley, and Mahoney was a top-10 finisher in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle races.

Mahoney is committed to Youngstown State and broke North Hills’ 50-yard freestyle mark this season, qualifying for the WPIAL meet in that event already.

“She’s incredibly dedicated to the sport, and she’s really tough on herself,” Loutsenhizer. “She wants to achieve great things, and she works really hard to get there. She’s a great leader, one of our captains this year. And the energy she brings really helps to elevate the girls.”

Loutsenhizer has changed the approach of the program. There’s more of a focus and dedication to the weight room than in past years. It’s a foundational shift that she feels will permeate throughout all aspects of her team.

“We’re working on the physicality of the athlete,” Loutsenhizer said. “Not just swim strength but strength in general, trying to build up that base.

“But the big thing that I try to hold these kids to is accountability. I want them to be accountable for their careers, not only as swimmers but as students. I think that we’re really working towards building all of that in the program.”

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