Fast times expected at Westmoreland County swim meet

Thursday, January 27, 2022 | 7:12 PM

The county’s top swimmers will converge at Derry this weekend for the Westmoreland County Coaches Association swimming and diving championships.

Diving events will take place Friday beginning at 5 p.m., and swimming events are scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday.

The event returns after taking 2021 off because of the pandemic.

WCCA swim committee member and Derry coach Jeffrey Kelly is excited the event is returning.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring this event back. The whole idea of the WCCA is to create funds so we can award scholarships for Westmoreland County athletes,” he said. “We have so many outstanding athletes here in Westmoreland County. A lot of people look at the WPIAL as the Pittsburgh area. But these are Westmoreland County kids, and it’s nice to be able to feature them in their own county.”

Belle Vernon coach Rob Reda said this event is a good barometer for evaluating how his team will do in the approaching WPIAL championships. Being able to swim against the larger schools in the county increases the competition level and raises the awareness of the athletes.

“This is one of the few chances that we get as a school to swim some of the 3A teams,” Reda said. “It’s a championship-like atmosphere, and everyone usually steps it up a notch. I always say that this meet is the start of the championship season.”

Both coaches agree there might be some eye-catching times posted at this weekend’s event as the pool at Derry is considered a fast one. Essentially, the water in the pool goes through a gutter system that prevents the water from coming back at the athletes.

“When you look at the way the water is pushed into the pool, does it come back on the athlete or go into the gutter and disappear? Our pool is designed so that when the water gets pushed out, it goes into a gutter and can’t wash back into them,” Kelly said.

Added Reda: “Times seem to drop at this meet. Derry’s pool seems to be on the faster side. The overall atmosphere of the meet gets us ready for our section meet.”

The Mt. Pleasant girls team is the defending Class 2A champion. The Vikings look to be strong contenders to repeat. Freshman Lily King has the top seed in the 50- and 100-yard free and is also a member of the 200 medley relay team, which is ranked first.

Hempfield won the Class 3A title in 2020, but Franklin Regional has posted several top times in preparation for this event. Amanda McFaden (200 and 500 free), Elaina Cieczierski (1-meter diving), Natalie Eiben (100 fly) and the 400 free relay team are top seeds in their events.

The Belle Vernon boys were champs last time, but it’s the girls who have been impressive this year. They are 8-1 and have surprised their coach with their performances.

Senior Delaney Patterson leads the Leopards and is seeded third in the 200 IM. She is also second in the 500 free but has the fastest Class 2A time in both events. She also swims the 200 medley and 400 free relays.

“Our medley relay has been very good this year,” Reda said. “We’re seeded sixth and swim in the fast heat with some 3A schools. That should help bring our times down.”

The Belle Vernon boys will be paced by Nick Reda, who is the fifth-ranked swimmer in the 100 breaststroke and 12th in the 200 free.

Franklin Regional will be joined by Hempfield and Kiski Area as 3A teams to watch. The Panthers have the top-rated 400 free and medley relay teams, and the Spartans have the best time in the 200 free relay.

Derry has low numbers on its squad but is looking to post strong performances in its home pool. The girls 200 free relay is slotted sixth, and Regan Repak has the ninth-best time in a tight group in the 100 breaststroke. Jake Hauser will be a contender in the 1-meter dive.

“We have the advantage — it’s our home pool — but even though we are small in numbers, we have some kids that I expect will do very well,” Kelly said. “I don’t know how high up they’ll place, but I’m really looking forward to some great times because the competition is so strong.

“We look at our facilities as some of the best in Westmoreland County, so it’s nice to show them off, too.”

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