Plum swimmers seeing results after ‘intense holiday training’

Saturday, January 21, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Plum swim coach Shawn Haupt chuckled when he talked recently about the vibe among the boys and girls team members as some “moaning and groaning” with a lot of tiredness from some heavy-duty practice sessions.

“But that happens every year around this time,” he said.

“And every year, when I let up, they are as happy as can be. But they understand the process and the steps during the season to get them ready for what is to come at the end. We have a goal of getting as many kids to WPIALs as possible individually and in relays. We are seeing some good things from everybody as everything starts to click and times drop even further. We hope that can continue in the coming weeks. They are excited for what’s coming.”

The Plum girls team defeated Franklin Regional, Butler and Penn-Trafford to start the dual-meet schedule.

Haupt said the victory over Franklin Regional gave the team a ton of momentum.

“That was huge for the girls,” Haupt said. “That was a meet that helped them realize what they could be. It set the tone. Last year, we were good, and we gave Franklin a run but ultimately came up short. That meet was penciled on our calendar this year. They went in with the attitude that they were going to walk out of there with a win.”

The team opened 2023 with a loss to a deep Fox Chapel team which returned several key members from last year’s WPIAL runner-up performance.

“The girls knew what they were up against, but they still went in with a ton of confidence,” Haupt said.

“The girls showed up and gave it their best. We were coming right out of our intense holiday training, and they produced some great swims.”

Sophomore Giuliana Ricciuti earned a secondary WPIAL cut in the 200-yard freestyle against Baldwin two weeks ago and added that mark to WPIAL cuts in the 200 individual medley, 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.

“She’s swimming tired, and that’s what I expect right now,” Haupt said.

“At this point in the year, no one should be feeling their best. But she is swimming strong and is right on her personal bests, and that is a good thing. She is in a good place.”

She swam a 59.20 in the 100 back at WPIALs last year, placed 10th and earned a trip to states. She is chasing the 100 back school record of 59.01 set in 1992 by Karen Van Tassel.

“She’s posted a 59 mid, and she needs a 59 low. She’s making progress there. Hopefully, she can get it soon,” Haupt said.

Haupt said Ricciuti can earn WPIAL qualifying marks in nearly all of the individual events. Ricciuti said the 100 breaststroke might be the one outlier in her qualifying goals.

“I am really happy with where I am at right now because it is the whole process of our training,” she said.

“Being only a couple seconds off of my best times right now is really good, and it gives me high hopes coming into the championship season.”

Senior Nina Ricciuti qualified with a secondary cut in the 200 free at Butler on Dec. 14, and added a 50 free cut against Penn-Trafford on Dec. 15.

“I really pushed myself to get stronger during our (holiday) hell week of practices,” Nina Ricciuti said.

“My goal is to go as fast as I can and really enjoy my races for my senior year.”

Haupt said all three Plum girls relays have qualified.

The WPIAL again established a system of qualifying times for the WPIAL championships the week of March 1 at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

Automatic cuts guarantee a swimmer or relay a spot at the championships. The secondary times are provisional and put a qualifier in the running to swim at WPIALs. There will be a limit of 32 entries placed on each individual and relay event.

Haupt said the eight-member boys team continues to gain momentum, both with team victories and individual accomplishments.

The team lost to Franklin Regional, Butler, Penn-Trafford and Fox Chapel but bounced back to beat Baldwin and sweep both Armstrong and Burrell to improve to 3-4 overall.

“It was very important to get those wins,” Haupt said. “The boys have been working hard. The time drops have been there. But at the end of the day, they wanted to see more than just that. To start the year 0-4 was a little rough for them. I explained to them that every peak has two valleys. They were in the valley and needed to work back up to that peak, and they did that with a lot of determination. They saw it, and they were beyond excited with the win over Baldwin. They really celebrated it, and they deserved it.

“It showed that the hard work was paying off. Then to get the wins over Armstrong and Burrell, it kept them energized and excited for what is to come.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .


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