Penn-Trafford boys, Franklin Regional girls win Class AAA titles at WCCA swim meet

Saturday, January 26, 2019 | 9:27 PM

For the 14 schools that compete in the Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association swimming and diving championships this weekend at Derry, the two-day event marks not only a chance for teams to earn bragging rights for a year, it also gives the swimmers a unique insight as to what they’re going to see when the WPIAL championships roll around at the end of February.

But in January, Franklin Regional and Penn-Trafford continue to show their dominance at the yearly meet as both schools finished in the top two in the boys and girls standings.

“This is always a meet that we look forward to and the kids get excited to swim against the other kids in the county because we know them all so well, ” Penn-Trafford coach Dave Babik said.

The Franklin Regional girls team edged Penn-Trafford for first place in the Class AAA division, 341-329. Hempfield (315), Latrobe (255) and Norwin (253) round out the top-five finishers respectively.

Mt. Pleasant (152) took the Class AA girls title followed by Greensburg Salem (141) and host Derry (120) as the top three finishers.

The story for Franklin Regional wasn’t so much about how standout upperclassmen such as Abigail Ramey and Evelyn Siler performed; everyone inside Derry’s steamy natatorium knew the Panthers were stacked with talent. It was how the younger talent performed that helped give Franklin Regional the edge over the long haul.

“A lot of my younger ones are doing better than expected,” Franklin Regional coach Vic Santuro said. “We were hoping to use this meet to get a lot of kids qualified for WPIAL’s.”

Freshmen Annika AlBright and Marissa Mansour swam the third and fourth legs for the Panthers’ first-place 200-yard medley relay team (1 minute, 52.28 seconds). The Panthers outlasted a young Norwin quartet, which came in a close second (1:52.52).

“The girls, especially, have done a lot of good things today,” first-year Norwin coach Doug Watson said.

A few girls’ records fell. Mt. Pleasant senior Heather Gardner beat her own WCCA record from a year ago (1:05.57) in the 100-yard breaststroke with a 1:04.30.

Hempfield’s 200-yard freestyle relay team of Maddy Cisco, Emma Martz, Jordan Crupie and Francesca Nemetz knocked down Penn-Trafford’s record (1:40.11) set in 2017 with a time of 1:38.80. It was the first time Hempfield coach Kevin Clougherty put the record-breaking quartet together, and it worked.

“They’ve come a long way,” Clougherty said. “We thought it could work and so far, so good. The girls did dynamite.”

For the second year in a row, Penn-Trafford walked away the victors in the boys’ Class AAA competition. The Warriors won by another slim margin over Franklin Regional, 387-363. Hempfield (310), Latrobe (217) and Kiski Area (141) round out the top five finishers.

Belle Vernon (184) took the Class AA title. Mt. Pleasant (148) and Greensburg Salem (127) finished in the top three, respectively.

“They get all amped up,” Babik said. “We know they’re going to swim very well and today was no exception. We’ve been very, very pleased with performances the kids have had.”

The Warriors arrived looking to break some records and did so in the 200-and 400-free relays. The quartet of Luke Babik, Nick Graziano, Austin Prokopec and Ben Yant broke Hempfield’s 1-year-old record with a 1:28.47. The same lineup broke another Hempfield record in the 400 free relay with a 3:14.82.

“I always love coming to this meet every year and I’ve never been a champion in individuals and it was really nice to finally get that,” said Luke Babik.

Babik had a good day. He also took first (48.18) in the 100-yard freestyle and finished second (22.13) behind Hempfield’s Gavin Mayo (21.29), a North Carolina recruit, in the 50 freestyle. Mayo’s time in the 50 free is a WCCA record, topping Lucas Bureau’s time of 21.38 set in 2012.

“Gavin is a special talent,” Clougherty said. “He’s just chalked full of raw speed.”

Other boys’ records to fall came in the 100 backstroke, where Belle Vernon’s Ian Shahan beat his record of 53.12 set a year ago with 52.46.

Greensburg Salem’s William Crites set a record in the 100 breaststroke with a 59.20.

“What we used this meet for is to get ready for the WPIAL meet,” Clougherty said. “The prize it the WPIAL and state meet.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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