Franklin Regional relay sets school record, wins state title

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Friday, March 17, 2023 | 10:50 PM


The Franklin Regional boys 200-yard medley relay team had some unfinished business as it arrived at Bucknell for the first day of the PIAA Class 3A swimming championships.

The Panthers quartet of junior Holden Thomas, senior Aiden Bunker, junior Ben Holm and senior Jason Tosh swam a time of 1 minute, 34.29 seconds at WPIALs for third place.

They were the sixth seed for states, but coach Vic Santoro said confidence in their potential for great things trumped concern over seeding.

And off they went, from Thomas’ lead backstroke leg to Tosh bringing it home with a blazing freestyle anchor. Franklin Regional touched the wall first in a time of 1:32.18 that lowered the school record it set in the preliminaries (1:32.82).

The state title was theirs.

“I saw the guy next to me go ahead of me, and I just put my head down and knew I had to give it my all,” Tosh said.

Franklin Regional was second to District 1’s Conestoga, last year’s medley relay champion, at the final exchange.

“All year, we had been telling ourselves that we were going to win states,” Tosh said.

”We knew the work we needed to put in to make it happen. This is our last shot — me and Bunker — in our senior year. All four of us wanted it more than ever. This is such a great feeling.”

Franklin Regional, with Thomas, Bunker and Tosh in the lineup, placed fifth at states last year. Ben Holm replaced older brother Owen, now a freshman at John Carroll, on the relay.

The relay’s time also placed it on the National Federation of High Schools Honor Roll.

“I felt good about this group all year, and I felt we had the potential to win WPIALs,” Santoro said.

“Holden got sick the week before WPIALs and missed five days of practice. We didn’t have our best showing at WPIALs. We took third there, but I knew we were better. The guys were excited the past two weeks. I am just so proud of them.”

Santoro said he felt the momentum from the medley relay would carry over to the other two championship-finals heats: the same four in the 200 free relay and Bunker’s swim in the 200 IM.

Tosh, Thomas, Holm and Bunker blew away the school record in the 200 free relay, finishing with a time of 1:24.45 to place second overall.

The group came to states seeded eighth after placing third at WPIALs (1:25.68), and it also was fourth in the preliminaries (1:25.27) earlier Friday.

Bunker’s versatility was on display in the 200 IM as he bumped up one spot to third overall and knocked two seconds off his seed time to finish in 1:50.13.

He also moved up seven places and into medal contention after taking 10th last year.

Hempfield senior Dom Falcon also is a PIAA medalist.

The WPIAL champion in the 50 free qualified for the championship-finals heat and landed on the podium in seventh with a time of 20.94.

He arrived at Bucknell as the No. 7 seed in the 50 free after sprinting to a WPIAL-winning time of 20.87 March 2 at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

Latrobe sophomore Lauren Bell qualified for the consolation finals in the girls 100 butterfly, and she finished 10th with a time of 57.07.

Also swimming in the consolation finals were Penn-Trafford’s boys 200 medley relay of junior Patton Graziano, senior Aidan Kelly, Conner Alexander and senior Evan Delsinore (15th, 1:36.74); and the Hempfield boys 200 free relay of Falcon, Matthew Knedeisen, junior Brock Maloney and senior Liam Randolph (16th, 1:27.38).

The Class 3A championships continue Saturday with the 100 free, 500 free, 100 back, 100 breaststroke, and 400 free relay.

Preliminary heats begin at 8:10 a.m. for the girls and 10:45 for the boys.

The girls consolation and championship finals are set to start at 3:25 p.m. followed by the boys consolation and championship finals at 6:05.

Polosky claims silver

The WPIAL populated the medals podium Friday afternoon at the PIAA Class 3A girls diving championships as all four entries from the district earned medals.

That included Latrobe senior Hannah Polosky, a Pitt commit who finished second overall to North Allegheny senior and Harvard commit Christina Shi.

Polosky’s 248.40 points over her six dives allowed her to move up to second from sixth place in her PIAA debut last year.

“I think I dove really really well,” said Polosky, who also finished runner-up to Shi at WPIALs on Feb. 25 at North Allegheny.

“A lot of my scores sometimes didn’t reflect the way that I dove, the dives that I did and my entries into the water. There’s nothing really you can do about it at the end of the day.

“I came in here hoping to get top three, at least. I only started diving my sophomore year, so being able to come here twice and compete with the best in the state and finish with a second is huge.”

Polosky would’ve dove at states as a sophomore in 2021. She took fifth at WPIALs that year, but the PIAA only took district champions because of covid logistics, including the move of the state meet to Cumberland Valley.

Bronze medalist Lola Malarky, a sophomore from North Allegheny, was right on Polosky’s heels through the final dives and scored 245.95 points.

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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