Fox Chapel swimming set to have best team in recent history

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Sunday, December 13, 2020 | 1:54 PM


The Fox Chapel swimming program is on the rise.

With an influx of young talent on both the girls and boys side and state champion Sophie Shao returning, the Foxes are in position to have one of the best seasons in recent history.

“We feel really confident; we had one of our best seasons on the girls’ side last year, and our boys side has steadily been getting better,” Fox Chapel coach Dan Taylor said. “We’ve got some freshmen boys that have come in this year that are going to replace a lot of our seniors that graduated, and we really only lost two girls that had a tremendous impact on our success.”

Taylor returns sophomores Talia Bugel and Shao, who both brought a lot to their program as freshmen last season.

Shao won WPIAL and PIAA gold in her first varsity season. She won her state title in the 100-yard butterfly at the PIAA Class 3A championship with a time of 54.22 seconds. She also won a WPIAL title in 54.74.

“I knew she was very capable of being in the top three,” Taylor said. “When you are talking about a few hundredths of a second in those races it could go any direction. One bad turn or one bad stroke, it all has an impact.”

Bugel finished third in the 100-yard backstroke at the WPIAL meet and qualified for the PIAA championships.

“For two freshmen to come in and make states and then one of them be a state champion, I think that’s pretty rare,” Taylor said.

Now, Taylor is excited about what they both are going to bring to the program this season. He is hoping they will set a new standard for the future of Fox Chapel swimming.

“It’s great for the team and great for the other girls that swim with them; that’s really what the benefit is,” Taylor said. “For me as a coach, yes it’s nice to coach athletes that are talented. But, what they bring to the practice is more about how they help their other teammates get better.”

On the boys’ side, Taylor lost more than half of his team to graduation but does have an influx of talent that could lead the team for the next few seasons. Zach Zornan Ferguson leads the group of freshmen, and Taylor said he could be special in just his first year and might set some school records.

He’ll be joined by Henry Koloc, Peter Manelis and Oscar Ruff. Taylor said they could all contribute right out of the gate.

“They are nice additional pieces that give us good depth on the team,” Taylor said. “I think our boys team is going to be the strongest boys team that we’ve had in six or seven years.”

Senior diver David Manelis is back as well. As a junior, Manelis won the WPIAL Class 3A boys diving championship with an overall score of 524.90, which was 100 points more than any other diver. He also took third at states, but Taylor believes he could take another step this season.

“He’s a very talented diver and he’s got a legitimate shot at winning WPIALs again and state,” Taylor said. “He’s that caliber, he’s going to be another guy that you’ll see at WPIALs.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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