Low numbers, big goals for Greensburg Salem swimming

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Monday, January 3, 2022 | 10:35 AM


At the start of each season, Greensburg Salem swimming coach Bill Salathe hands out papers to each of his swimmers, asking them to write down their goals for the upcoming year.

Last season, goals, hopes and dreams were dashed, as covid-19 caused one interruption after another and kept some talented swimmers out of the WPIAL championships.

“It was tough,” Salathe said. “We started conditioning and had a positive case and were shut down. Then we started up again, and the governor shut us down. We started up again, and Greensburg Salem shut us down.

“It was tough to stay positive.”

Greensburg Salem was able to get three swimmers qualified for the WPIAL Class 2A championships, despite the field being largely reduced because of covid-19 regulations.

Abigail Sharp, currently a senior, placed 15th in the girls 200-yard IM. Grant Smith, now a sophomore, also finished 15th, but in the boys 100-yard backstroke. Madison Cassidy, who graduated in the spring, ended up sixth in the girls 100-yard backstroke.

A year later, depth is a bit of an issue for the Golden Lions.

“We’re low in numbers. We have nine swimmers,” Salathe said. “But they’re great kids.”

The good news is that two of those nine — Sharp and Smith — swam for WPIAL titles last year.

“Abby Sharp is my hardest worker in the pool,” Salathe said. “She’s one of these swimmers that likes to work hard. She’s my favorite swimmer. I don’t like to say that, but the reason I say it is because she’s the hardest worker.

“She’s fantastic, with a good, positive attitude. We’re hoping she goes on to college to swim.”

Sharp already has qualified for the 100-yard breaststroke but will be looking for more as the season unfolds.

She also will provide leadership to promising sophomore Emily Lehman, and freshman Lily Slavnik.

Salathe, who is in his fourth season leading Greensburg Salem, used to teach at the local YMCA and got to know Smith there.

“He’s a great swimmer,” Salathe said. “As a freshman, he qualified, and I’m expecting that every year through his high school career. He’s a fantastic kid who works hard. … I’m tickled to death to have him for another three years.”

Juniors Ethan Talford and Donald Dunmire will play big roles on the boys’ side. Freshmen Ryan Ashley and James Hugus also will make an immediate impact.

From a team standpoint, Salathe knows meet wins will be hard to come by. Fewer swimmers means fewer opportunities to score points.

But that means he looks more at individual performances and the personal growth of his athletes from the start of seasons and careers until completion.

“They work so hard that I want them to enjoy it,” Salathe said. “If they’re not enjoying, they won’t want to swim. They work so hard at practice, and I want them to do well at the meet. I want them to have personal records every time they swim, and they are.

“I just enjoy the kids, and I think they reflect off their coach. They know I care about them and want them to succeed.”

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