Plum swimmers aim to contend at WPIAL championship meet

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Saturday, February 24, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Brooke Price will again swim the 100-yard backstroke Friday on the second day of the WPIAL Class 3A championships at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

The Plum sophomore swam to 17th in the event in her WPIAL debut last year. It was the only individual event she qualified for in her first varsity season.

This season, Price has taken it up a notch.

She qualified in four events — adding the 500 freestyle, 200 free and 200 individual medley.

She also will swim the 500 on Day 2. It will be a rare one-day parlay of two individual events right next to each other.

But Price doesn’t think that will affect her ability to do well.

“I will have the boys 500 in between and also a podium awards break, so I will have time to rest between my 500 and the 100 back,” she said. “For the 100 back, I do that better when I am warmed up and pumped up, so I figured that would be the best thing. I will have that energy. I am confident I can do well and improve my place in the 100 back from last year. Being able to add the 500 was so awesome. It’s nice to see all the hard work pay off with that.”

Price is one of 17 — nine girls and eight boys — who will represent Plum swimming on the WPIAL’s grandest stage Thursday and Friday at Pitt’s Trees Pool. All eight boys are making their WPIAL debuts, while all nine girls are returning with WPIAL experience.

Price also will kick off the championships for Plum, as she will swim the leadoff backstroke leg of the girls 200 medley relay.

Last year, Price led off the relay and joined junior Kaileigh Smith, sophomore Dom Massie and senior Nina Ricciuti in finishing with an eighth-place medal.

Price, Smith, Massie and senior Amelia Faust are seeded 11th.

“Last year, we were seeded lower than what we ended up getting, so I think we can do that again and get another medal,” Price said.

“We’ve dropped a lot of time. When we are racing and are in the moment, we really do it for each other.”

Junior Giuliana Ricciuti is seeded seventh in the 200 free and ninth in the 100 back. Last year, she placed seventh in the 200 free, 11th in the 100 back and was a part of the 200 free relay with Nina Ricciuti, Massie and Faust which took sixth.

“She has the fastest seed times in both events, so she’s going in faster than she’s ever gone,” Haupt said.

“She has not rested or put on any special suits. She has all of that to her advantage going in. If she stays mentally sharp and believes in her preparation, she will hit her goals.”

This WPIAL meet will be the final one for Faust, as well as fellow senior Therese Schollaert.

Schollaert will swim individually in the 50 free and 100 butterfly, while Faust also will swim the 50 free as well as the 200 free relay with Massie, Ricciuti and sophomore Charlotte Faust.

Because of restrictions and logistics issues with the WPIAL championships in the wake of the covid pandemic, the WPIAL in recent years adopted separate automatic and secondary cuts for qualifications to the WPIAL championships.

That was done away with for this year, as the WPIAL adopted one single qualifying standard for each swimming event in Class 2A and Class 3A.

That means more swimmers will get the opportunity to experience WPIALs and compete at Trees Pool.

“It also takes away that added pressure of having to wait to see if a time is good enough,” Haupt said.

“It’s definitely a better feeling knowing that every time a kid made a cut, we knew they were coming with us (to WPIALs).”

What hasn’t changed is that the only automatic qualifier to states is the champion of each event. The other 31 qualifiers to each event at states will be determined based on times produced at each district meet.

All three Plum boys relays qualified. They have uphill battles as low seeds, but Haupt said they have nothing to lose and are ready to surprise some people.

“This is proof that the boys team is getting better as a whole,” Haupt said. “The future is bright because they are only going to continue to improve. The relays have a shot, and that’s what we want.”

Haupt said he was excited to see sophomore Aiden Irwin earn a WPIAL cut in the 500 free at last week’s regular-season finale against Gateway.

Irwin will swim the 500 free with a seed time of 5:08.69.

“All year, I thought that if any (boys swimmer) was going to make it that it would be him,” Haupt said.

“He carries himself with confidence, and he had significant time drops the last couple of times he swam it. So, he felt he had more left in him, and he proved it.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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