Pine-Richland swimmers on mission with schools records in their sights

Sunday, January 10, 2021 | 9:01 AM

Pine-Richland’s youthful swimming and diving teams hope to have breakout seasons built on one more year of experience and new additions.

Coach Pete Barry’s confidence in them grows with every practice.

“We’re taking advantage of every day we can be together, and we’re going to treat every meet like it could be our last,” Barry said. “(During the shutdown), we sent out emails for dryland circuits we could do. The kids did their best and came back in the best shape they could. They’re on a mission.”

What the boys team lack in veteran experience — there are no seniors on the team — they make up for with talent and years of developing together since they were in youth swimming programs.

“I think we have a lot of competitive swimmers,” junior Will Laubacher said. “A lot of what my coach has told us is that swim meets aren’t necessarily won with just the first-place finishes. They’re won on the back ends, the fourth, fifth and sixth places. From what I see on this team is that we have a lot of competitive swimmers who are ready to step up, get their best spots and win meets.”

Juniors Trent Vacula and Reece Rupert, sophomores Matt Carper and Justin Bogacz and freshman Shane Rupert will also be top swimmers for the Rams. Barry believes they can potentially “hang” with North Allegheny and Seneca Valley and compete for a third-place section finish with North Hills and Butler.

“I know a lot of the guys want to start smacking records off our board, one by one,” Barry said. “It’s going to be exciting to watch them go for it.”

The boys diving team will be led by Dylan McCabe, Daniel Steger and Briar Wentling. McCabe could be a potential contender in the top 16 at WPIALs, if not top eight, Barry said.

“Dylan McCabe used to swim and dive, and he’s going more for the diving now,” Barry said. “Over the past year, he worked hard and watching him on the boards, it’s clear he’s a really strong diver for us.”

Barry also expects the girls team to improve with young swimmers like Mila Cribbs, Delaney Allen and Eleah Dickson. The team also added North Hills transfer Elizabeth Shaffer.

The four sophomores hope to form a strong relay team to contend at WPIALs.

“I think all of our girls are really great,” Allen said. “We work together really well and understand how hard it will be to get through this season. We’re all helping each other out, giving each other pep talks before every practice, and I feel we do have a strong team this year.”

The girls diving team will have junior Maddie Alexander and sophomores Rachel Watson and Emily Smallwood returning. Sophomores Ava Romano and Lucy Kimmel joined the diving team this season.

“(Ava and Lucy) are pushing all of the other girls, and it’s going to be a battle for the top four (to go to WPIAL)” Barry said. “It’s a friendly battle. I know Maddie can be top six at WPIALs. She’ll definitely be in the medal round.”

Barry said he expects each team to be more competitive in sections and WPIALs this season.

“We’re up against some of the toughest teams on this side of the state in our section, and that’s not taking anything away from the south section,” Barry said. “It’s nice on this side of the state going up against some of the top teams in WPIAL and PIAA.”


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