Greensburg Salem swimmers continue to improve under 1st-year coach
By: Ray Fisher
Thursday, January 10, 2019 | 5:36 PM
Curt Smith was in charge of the Greensburg Salem swimming and diving program for eight years before stepping aside before the 2018-19 season.
Bill Salathe has taken over as the coach and wants to continue the success and stability Smith developed.
“Coach Autumn (Rhodes) and I want to build on the program that was handed down from coach Smith,” Salathe said. “We want the kids to improve their times throughout the season, and to make personal-best times while enjoying their swim season.
“We have a number of good swimmers. We want to have as many WPIAL qualifiers as possible.”
Salathe’s coaching philosophy promotes a positive attitude and experience for the Greensburg Salem athletes, as well as a positive life experience.
“We want to create and maintain a team that offers each swimmer the greatest opportunity to achieve his or her goals in the water,” Salathe said. “I want to instill the love of the sport that they can remember for a lifetime.”
Two of the top athletes in the senior-dominated program are Billy Crites and Erica Steele.
“William made it to states last year, and we’re expecting him to make it again this year,” Salathe said. “We’re also hoping Erica can make it (to states).”
Crites is a contender for the WPIAL and PIAA finals in at least two events — the 200-yard freestyle and 100 breaststroke. He broke a 1975 team record in the 100 butterfly Thursday with a time of 54.90 seconds against Mt. Pleasant.
“I would like to make the ‘A’ heat at state finals in the 200 free,” Crites said. “In the 100 breaststroke, I’m looking to win the state championship. It’s a long way off and a lofty goal, but with personal sacrifice and dedication, I’m sure I’ll make myself proud.
“Additionally, I am going to try to sweep the school record board this year, which I think is an attainable goal.”
A longtime soccer enthusiast, Crites is vice president of the National Honor Society and the Physics Club at Greensburg Salem, and is president of the Adventure Club.
“I have played soccer my whole life, besides my senior year in high school,” he said. “It’s a sport I still love and have a passion for.
“The most important piece of advice I can give is to be motivated enough to truly believe you can progress, because once you lose hope, you lose your one shot you’ve been granted.”
Steele is a multiple-sport athlete, also competing in swimming, volleyball and track and field.
“When I graduate high school, I will have 12 varsity letters,” she said. “I also do a lot of volunteering through our school’s Interact Club, such as going to food banks, working with Zachary’s Mission to raise money and make tutus for babies in hospitals, and write Christmas cards to veterans.”
Two of Steele’s stronger events in the pool are the 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley.
“My personal goals would be to place in both events at WPIALs,” she said. “One of my expectations for the girls team this season is for our 200 medley relay to make it to states.”
Crites and Steele, who started swimming at the Greensburg YMCA when she was 6, are joined on this year’s boys and girls teams by seniors Hannah Ahearn, Jeremy Kappel, Ian Merendino, Peter Mica, Kylee Stone and Chris Writt.
The junior class is represented by Chase Clemence, Yalena Craig, Jordan Dale, Kelly Gillis, Mason Palmiere and Gianna Ponterio.
Madison Cassidy, Colleen King, Christian Kolaczynski, Cameron Leech and Marisa Sharp are sophomores, while top freshman prospects include Allison DePalma, Brianna Guinther and Abby Sharp.
“I believe the boys team this year is a stronger group than the one from last year,” Crites said. “We’ve already qualified for WPIALs, and we have our eyes on qualifying for the PIAA state meet in late-March.”
There are 22 athletes in the Greensburg Salem swim program, including 13 girls. Steele, Cassidy, Marisa Sharp and Abby Sharp make up the girls 200 medley relay unit.
Like the Greensburg Salem team members, Salathe is a local product.
He started swimming competitively as a youth for the Greensburg YMCA, and began coaching eight years ago as an assistant for the Stingray swim team again at the Greensburg YMCA.
“I finished my swimming career at Hempfield Area High School,” Salathe said.
He now is entrenched firmly in his coaching career with the Golden Lions.
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.