South Fayette swimmers maintain focus through constant changes

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Sunday, February 14, 2021 | 9:01 AM


It has been a challenge for all sports to find any sort of routine or normalcy during this pandemic.

However, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Daily practices have been altered and new ways to train have been created as the season creeps closer to the district championships.

The WPIAL Class AAA diving finals are Feb. 27, and the swimming championships are slated for March 6-7.

South Fayette swimming coach Todd Clark appreciates everything the school district has done to give his swimmers a chance at success in 2021.

“We have been very lucky,” Clark said. “The South Fayette School District really takes care of its kids. We put very strict protocols in place and have kept them sacred for months. (Athletic director Mark Keener) understands how important it is for these kids to train and compete in their sports this winter. He has done everything he can to keep us in the water.

“We have trained hard on the days that we can swim. We have stayed emotionally connected and positive on the days we cannot be together. I am very lucky to have a senior-dominated, mature team. They haven’t panicked or sank low emotionally all season. They are calm and steady. The underclassmen see that, and we all benefit.”

So what have been the biggest hurdles this season for the Lions boys and girls swimmers?

“The toughest parts have been practice cancellations over health and safety and an always changing meet schedule,” Clark said. “Since dual meets began, we have had some type of change in the racing plan every week. Interestingly, the unknown has become a part of our standard operating procedure. There has been a lot of, ‘This is the plan until it is not.’ We have learned to not get upset about items out of our control.”

Although the South Fayette basketball teams have at times dealt with the stop-and-go aspect of covid concerns this season, the swimming teams have not been shut down for any extended period since the winter sports season resumed Jan. 4.

“Practices have been canceled a few times for a few days,” Clark said. “Not a week has gone by without a meet change, but we just carry on without letting it bother us too much.”

Last year, the South Fayette girls swim team just missed finishing in the top 10 in Class AAA by 25 points. This year’s squad looks to narrow or eliminate that gap.

“The girls have been training well and racing great,” Clark said. “We lost to Moon in our first dual meet to fall behind in the section standings. We have been great since then. We lost by eight points to a very good Upper St. Clair squad. Our seniors are veterans who have great approaches to their races. They are calm, cool, collected and quite competitive. They have been a joy to work with.”

The 2019-2020 season was a tough one for the South Fayette boys team, but Clark likes what he sees from them this season.

“A number of our competitors have told me that our boys are vastly improved over last year,” Clark said. “Over half of the squad is seniors who are determined to go out with a bang. We have won more meets than we have lost this year, and that has been fun for this group.”

Clark feels the success of the South Fayette swimming programs have been a total team effort, and not just among his boys and girls swimmers.

“The community has been very welcoming,” he said. “There are a number of very dedicated swimming families who want me and the kids to be successful. They have supported changes I have made to the training and racing plans of the swimmers. I am blessed to have returning staff, Melanie Miller and AJ Mannarino, that have supported my vision for South Fayette swimming.

“We are looking forward to continuing to improve the rest of the season. I couldn’t be happier with the kids in these trying times.”

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