Kiski Area swimming embracing ‘small but mighty’ mantra

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Monday, January 24, 2022 | 11:42 AM


Kiski Area swimming may not have a massive roster, but it does have massive ambitions.

The Cavaliers have put together a strong start to the 2021-22 season, and coach Lisa Pepka has been plenty satisfied with what she’s seen in the pool.

“We’ve had high hopes, and I’ve been impressed with the performance of the entire team,” said Pepka, in her fifth season leading the program. “I call us ‘small but mighty.’ We have nine boys and nine girls. But we are really doing well.”

Through the first five meets, Kiski had already met WPIAL qualifying times in 33 events.

“It’s been a really great season,” Pepka said. “We have some freshman boys and girls who are contributing to the team and are solid swimmers.

“The juniors and seniors are really working hard and pushing hard.”

A year ago, Eliza Miller established herself as a freshman by qualifying for the WPIAL championships in both the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 breaststroke.

That success has carried over into the new year.

“She’s our top girls swimmer,” said Pepka, adding that Miller has again automatically qualified for the 2022 district meet in both events from last season. “You can pretty much put anything in front of her, and she goes for it. She has an incredible work ethic in the pool. She’s definitely our strongest swimmer.”

Sophomore Abigail King had a nice year in 2021 and has performed well so far this season, also.

On the boys side, juniors Levi Hansen and Parker Sterlitz have had strong seasons after qualifying for multiple events as sophomores. In 2021, Hansen placed fifth in the 200 freestyle and fourth in the 500 freestyle. Sterlitz finished eighth in the 200 freestyle and third in the 500 freestyle.

Hansen automatically qualified has in three events: the 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly and the 500 freestyle. Sterlitz has solidified a spot in the 500 freestyle, as well.

“The energy between those two, being teammates, it’s incredible to watch that in the pool every day,” Pepka said, adding that both boys will likely swim collegiately. “They’re constantly pushing each other.

“To see them, back and forth, touching the wall at the same time, it’s really cool to have two top swimmers in the same event.”

Those two have combined in a qualifying 200-yard freestyle relay team with freshman Riley Yute and senior Jack Coleman, whom Pepka praises for his dedication to the program and sport.

Pepka has found a motivational quote she builds her coaching philosophy around.

“What I need is someone who will make me do what I can,” she said, quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“That’s what I’m there for,” Pepka added. “To see them, every time they touch the wall, and they’re giving it their all, it just brings a smile to my face.”

Kiski has some lofty goals in mind, including a boys section title that would come against strong programs in Hempfield, Norwin and Penn-Trafford.

On top of that?

“I see more Kiski records being broken,” Pepka said. “And more medals at WPIALs this year.”

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