North Hills swimming will be represented well at WPIAL championships

Friday, January 19, 2018 | 5:34 PM

Teams are halfway through the swimming season, and one thing is for sure: North Hills will have plenty of representatives at the WPIAL championships.

Both the boys and girls teams stood at 4-2 entering last week's meet at Butler. They both won their previous meet against Montour and were starting to hit their stride after a bit of a slow start.

“I am about where I thought we would be in the season as far as records, but they have impressed me when it comes to WPIAL cuts and performances,” North Hills coach Liz Cleary said. “I am happy with our records so far. I feel we have trained very hard over the Christmas break so some swimmers are more broken down than others. They understand that the work will pay off in the end, but the process will be grueling.”

The Indians already have 11 swimmers who have qualified for the WPIAL championships, led by senior Kevin Lovasik. He has qualified in the 200 free, 50 free, 100 free, 500 free, 100 breast and 200 IM. Lovasik is a captain on the boys side, along with senior Andrew Mahoney, who has qualified in the 200 free, 100 free, 50 free, 100 back and 200 IM.

Also qualifying for the boys is senior Neil Wible, junior Matt McHugh and freshman Josh Bogniard.

Wible has qualified in the 500 free, 100 free, 50 free, 200 free and 200 IM. McHugh has qualified in the 100 free, 50 free and 200 free, and Bogniard in the 50 free, 100 free and 100 back.

“McHugh has blown away a lot of my expectations,” Cleary said. “He has really been working hard and comes to practice ready to work hard each day. With three strong seniors in Wible, Mahoney and Lovasik, Matt has really made an impact rounding out those relays. Bogniard has also really made an immediate impact and filled a big role in backstroke.”

For the girls, freshmen Mia Cutenese and Sarah Grace Kuchma, sophomore Maddy Cordial and seniors Elizabeth Ashoff, Sydney Davidson and Brianna Joll all have qualified for the WPIAL championships.

Davidson, a Gannon commit, is tied for the team lead on the girls side with three qualifications in the 200 IM, 50 free and 100 breastroke. Also qualifying with three are Joll in the 200 IM, 100 back and 100 fly and Kuchma in the 50 free, 100 free and 200 free.

Ashoff and Cutenese both qualified in the 500 free and Cordial in the 100 free.

“Cutenese and Kuchma have made immediate impacts in sprint free and distance events,” Cleary said about her freshmen. “They have embraced hard work and have been up for many challenges. Their positive attitude is correlating to success in the pool.”

A big reason for the improvement from top to bottom at North Hills is the addition of a strength and conditioning coach. Eric Snyder, a coach and math teacher in the district, has taken over that position.

“He has done a phenomenal job implementing new lifts and building our program outside of the pool,” Cleary said. “The swimmers have really accepted the new challenge and although they are sore I can see it translating in the water.”

“I have been coaching for six years,” Snyder said. “Of those six years, the past four years I have been heavily involved or in charge of strength and conditioning for football. When approached about running the weight room for the swim team, I embraced the idea of training athletes I have never trained before.

“It has been such a tremendous experience working with these athletes. They are some of the best I have been around. I have yet to find their limit. I am so excited to watch them compete and see their hard work pay off. Words cannot describe how exciting it is to be a part of this program and be around these student-athletes.”

Drew Karpen is a freelance writer.


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