New pool, new attitude for Thomas Jefferson swim team

Friday, January 31, 2020 | 5:14 PM

The Thomas Jefferson swimming and diving program is thriving, thanks in large part to the school’s beautiful new 25-yard pool.

The Jaguars have not had the luxury of swimming in their own home pool until this year, and the move has been great news for veteran coach John Penn and the team.

A 1977 TJ graduate, Penn committed 21 years ago that he would be at TJ to see the school get a pool of its own. It finally came to fruition with completion of the construction of the $95 million high school.

“With the new pool, and the fact it has eight lanes, allows for us to have more practice time and more focused areas that we can practice,” Penn said. “We are about two or three weeks ahead of previous years (in terms of progress), with lots of improvements by the entire team.”

Through Jan. 20, the TJ girls owned a 7-1 record while the boys were 5-3.

And the participant numbers have doubled from recent years. There are 37 girls and 17 boys in the program.

Several have qualified for the WPIAL championships, led by junior Hallie Findlan, a recent Trib HSSN swimmer of the week selection.

Findlan, a third-year standout, has qualified in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyle events, along with the 200 individual medley.

She was seven-tenths of a second off a 10-year-old school record in the 200 free held by Grace Ninesling.

Findlan also swims a leg on three qualifying relay units — 200 medley, 200 free, 400 free — along with freshman Mackenzie Meyers, senior Breanna Smith, and sophomores Audra Morgan, Madison Keck and Emma Organist.

Meyers has qualified for WPIALs in two individual events, the 200- and 500-yard freestyles.

Smith, Findlan and juniors Mia Olsen and Soliana Porter are team captains.

The anchor of TJ’s boys team is junior Luke Pletz, a WPIAL qualifier in the 200 IM, 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.

Pletz and juniors Christan Colosimo and Ian Majetic are team captains.

“Luke and Hallie are both leaders by example, as are all of our captains,” said Penn, fondly known as J.P. to the team. “They are very well-respected in our program and school and are involved in other activities.

“Both have a lot of experience at championship meets, and they work to help motivate our other swimmers to achieve goals such as qualifying for these meets.”

This year’s Section 5-AA Invitational will take place Feb. 14 at the Jaguars’ pool

“We are preparing right now to host the invitational,” Penn said, “which is always a great day for all the teams in our section.”

In all, there are four seniors, 14 juniors, 23 sophomores and 13 freshmen in the TJ program this season.

Smith, Mia Maksin, Nieyalii Rodriguez and Rylee Walk are seniors on the girls team. They are joined by five juniors: Findlan, Olsen, Porter, Riley Hill and Isabelle Yancura.

TJ’s sophomore class is represented by a large group of swimmers. They are Ella Anton, Riley Baker, Lillana Cooke, Mya Greschner, Keck, Faith Krueger, Hayley Maizer, Sadie Marlow, Morgan, Organist, Rylee Pristas, Mary Pysh, Megan Rozanski, Casey Sullivan, Anna Vogtsberger, Faith Williams, Emma Winters and Leanna Ziccardi.

Along with Myers, top freshman prospects include Sarah Berendowski, Ava Colosimo, Morgan Dixon, Jayla Hajiyev, Olivia Majetic, Emily Panaiia, Brianna Sobek, Giavanna Solomon and Olivia Supp.

Majetic, Dixon and Zaccardi are diving specialists for the TJ girls.

More than half the boys roster is made up of juniors — Carson Arthell, Alex Bobak, Colosimo, Alex Folino, Matt Kail, Weston Larkin, Majetic, Pletz and Matt Sonnett.

Sophomores are Jake Cranz, John Karnack, Jesse Keeney, Luke Leccia and Evan Savikas.

Freshmen Christopher Fullard, Nathan Maksin and Aidan Stella are the newest additions to the boys team. Stella and Arthrell are divers.

Penn is helped out by Brian Peters, TJ’s assistant head coach.

“We also had a few of last year’s senior swimmers permitted to help out over the Christmas break with various activities,” Penn said.

There are three sets of siblings — the Colosimos, Majetics and Maksins — in the program this season.


More High School Sports

High school scores, summaries and schedules for June 11, 2024
Mars boys lacrosse weathers early South Fayette storm, advances to 4th straight state title game
Longtime assistant promoted to 1st head coaching job with Yough boys
In battle of unbeatens, Meadville knocks off Mars in PIAA 2A boys volleyball semifinals
Shaler boys volleyball sweeps Warwick to earn return trip to Class 3A state finals