Roster smaller but expectations remain high for Franklin Regional swimmers

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Saturday, January 7, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Vic Santoro has coached swimming at Franklin Regional for the past 31 years.

And while he is excited about the season, he is concerned about smaller rosters than normal.

“I’ve talked to other coaches and they are experiencing the same,” Santoro said. “I believe covid has done a number on our feeder programs. We’re not as big this season.”

The teams are off to 3-0 start after posting wins against Penn Hills, Gateway and Plum.

“I’m hoping for (Westmoreland) county and WPIAL titles,” Santoro said. “I’m also hoping for a nice squad at WPIALs and to the PIAAs.”

Leading away for the boys is the medley relay team, which won a PIAA medal. Three members of that squad return. They are junior Holden Thomas, senior Aiden Bunker and senior Jason Tosh. Junior Ben Holm will replace his brother, Owen, on the squad. Owen Holm is now swimming at John Carroll.

Senior Joseph Thomas, who specializes in the breaststroke and freestyle, is another swimmer who will be part of other relays with Thomas, Bunker, Holm and Tosh.

“We were hit hard by illness prior to Christmas,” Santoro said. “We had as many as 17 swimmers sidelined with various respiratory symptoms.

“I just about have everyone back. What we did do over the Christmas break was have some of the hardest training ever. We did more yardage and hardest sessions. I’m curious to see how it plays out.”

Santoro said all the boys on the relay teams are either capable of winning WPIAL titles or placing in their events.

Ben Holm is a top butterfly swimmer, Thomas the backstroke, Bunker the I.M. and breaststroke and Tosh a freestyle sprinter.

“I make all my swimmers do the IM,” Santoro said. “I’m sure they’ll qualify in multiple events and then later decide what events to specialize in.”

Santoro said he has high hopes for freshman Peter Ducruet, who also has the ability to compete in multiple events, and divers Gino Piraino, a senior, and sophomore Mackinley Miller.

On the girls side, the Panthers have a lot of talented seniors.

They are led by Paityn Blakley (breaststroke, relays), Peyton Cohen (freestyle), Natalie Eiben (butterfly, freestyle, relays), Lia Fischetti (breaststroke), Allyson Hilty (backstroke, relays), Charlotte Mankovich (backstroke), Amanda McFaden (freestyle, relays), Emily Rose (diver) and Grace Wang (I.M., backstroke, freestyle).

Junior Kate Lowe should contribute in diving while Santoro sees big things from freshmen Magdalena Hull (all events) and Amelia Oates (distance events).

“I expect both teams will be successful,” Santoro said. “I have the ability to move them all around to help the team.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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