Plum swimmers ready to contend at WPIAL championship meet

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Sunday, February 26, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The Plum girls swim team will be taking one of its largest groups to the WPIAL Class 3A championships at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

Nine swimmers — seven individuals and two others who will swim only relays — hope to make a splash Thursday and Friday.

“From a coaching standpoint, this is fantastic,” Plum coach Shawn Haupt said.

“This is my 13th year, and this is definitely the largest girls team as far as individual qualifiers and how many splashes we’re going to have. We had a couple girls qualify late in the process, and we were pretty excited to see that. They worked really hard all season to get those cuts.

“From the girls’ standpoint, it’s going to be a lot of fun to be at WPIALs with so many teammates there cheering on and supporting each other. And this group is still young. Nina will be graduating, but the rest will be back. This is a group where it is fun to see what happens because they are going to continue to grow.”

The Class 3A timed finals will begin at 9:45 a.m. each day.

The top eight finishers in each event at WPIALs will earn medals. Only the WPIAL champion earns an automatic bid to the PIAA meet at Bucknell, and other top finishers will hope that their times will be good enough to earn at-large selections to states to fill out the 32 entries for each individual and relay event.

Sophomore Giuliana Ricciuti earned automatic times for WPIALs in the 100-yard backstroke, 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley.

She returns in the 100 backstroke looking for a medal after taking 10th last year with a time of 59.20 seconds.

Ricciuti also is gunning for the school record in the 100 back (59.01).

Last year, she swam two individual events on the second day, also finishing 14th in the 100 free.

But this time around, she’s opted to go with the 200 free on the first day. She is seeded 12th in the 100 back (1:00.38) and ninth in the 200 free (1:58.87).

“Honestly, looking at everyone else’s times leading up to WPIALs and seeing that I had a crazy time drop in the 200 free, I felt I had a good shot to do well in it,” Ricciuti said. “I think I have a really good shot to get a medal. It also separates my individual events to two days.

“I am really excited for WPIALs based on how I did last year. What I have done so far this season, it gives me really high hopes to reach more of my goals. Also, going in with a big group of teammates is really exciting. We’re looking forward to getting there and cheering for each other.”

Haupt said he is excited to see Ricciuti return to WPIALs after a strong foundation-building freshman season in 2022 and the knowledge of what the WPIAL competition is like.

“For her, she has an individual focus to hone in on each day in addition to helping out two relays,” Haupt said.

“She had a number of options for her individual swims, which is great for her. It shows her versatility and how hard she’s worked. She is doing the right things now so she will be well prepared each day. She’s going to feel better and better the closer she gets to WPIALs. She will be mentally ready to go.”

Senior Nina Ricciuti is seeded 16th in the 50 free (25.55). She also qualified in the 200 free, but she opted for the 50 and all three relays.

“We knew the 200 free was going to be a long shot for her with her time,” Haupt said.

Nina Ricciuti finished 10th in the 100 free last year and 20th in the 200 free.

Junior Amelia Faust hopes to move up the ranks in the 50 free where she is seeded 17th (25.61).

Junior Reese Schollaert will be busy with two individual events on the first day of competition. She is the 19th seed for the 100 fly (1:01.68) and 24th seed in the 200 IM (2:18.59).

Freshman Brooke Price makes her WPIAL debut in the 100 back where she is the 19th seed (1:02.04).

Sophomore Kaleigh Smith is seeded 19th in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.77).

Freshman Delaney Hunsinger will swim at WPIALs for the first time, and she is the 27th seed in the 200 free (2:03.17).

Haupt said he started to formulate the three girls relay lineups a couple of weeks ago, and he said he will make the final decisions, with swimmer input, closer to WPIALs.

The 200 medley relay is seeded 11th, the 200 free relay is 13th, and the 400 free relay is 13th as well.

Last year’s 200 medley relay, which included the Ricciuti sisters and Schollaert, reached the medals podium in eighth place (1:51.47).

Freshmen Dominique Massey and Charlotte Faust both are figuring into the relay lineups.

Up to 24 relays and 32 individuals are eligible to compete in the WPIAL Class 3A meet. But with challenging automatic and secondary time standards in Class 3A and several previously Class 3A teams moving down to Class 2A, some of lists for individual and relay events in Class 3A are less than the allotted entries.

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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