Swimming standouts named Penn Hills athletes of the year

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Sunday, June 9, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Luke Hoolahan saw the academic and athletic part of being a student at Penn Hills High School go hand in hand. Hoolahan played soccer, swam and was a member of the boys volleyball team.

Thanks to his all-around effort, Hoolahan was named school’s male athlete of the year.

Hoolahan, who will play volleyball at Chatham next year, felt having sports helped push him in the classroom.

“I felt like it was a motivator to do well physically, mentally and academically,” Hoolahan said. “Academically, sports had an impact to help push me to keep my grades up so I could keep playing sports.”

Hoolahan’s teammate on the swim team, Lauren Sipple, earned the female award. Sipple played volleyball, was on the swim team and also played softball.

Hoolahan was always looking for new challenges during his career. The Indians senior shined as a diver during his freshman season. Despite being a WPIAL qualifier, Hoolahan never wanted to go back to diving.

“It was a huge part of my mental being,” Hoolahan said. “It’s a huge mental sport, much more than swimming. Up on the diving board, you can flip around all you want. If you didn’t have the best mindset, you weren’t going to be able to complete it. I wanted to see how far I could go with swimming and diving instead.”

Hoolahan helped the Indians program send a large contingent of swimmers to the WPIAL Class 3A championships in swimming this season. Hoolahan was part of a relay team that qualified in the 200 free, 200 IM and 400 free relays. He also qualified in the 50 free.

Hoolahan finished 25th in the 50 free with a time of 23.01 seconds.

Sipple had drifted away from volleyball early in high school. But when athletic director Steph Strauss was forced to step in as coach, Sipple came back to the sport. Sipple, who will attend Duquesne, decided to pursue the military as a career thanks to Strauss’ advice.

Sipple’s plan is to attend school and enter the military through the Army reserves.

“At the beginning of my senior year, it was in the back of my mind,” Sipple said. “(Strauss) coached volleyball at Navy. She told me if the idea of going to the military is even in the back of my mind, I should explore it.”

While Sipple figured out her career path, she was also happy to hit one of her major goals during her senior season. Sipple felt like she had stagnated in the 100 breaststroke.

She was able to drop time quickly and ultimately earned a spot in the event at the WPIAL championships.

Sipple finished in 15th place with a time of 1:09.72.

“I wanted to perform well,” Sipple said. “I was stuck at the same time for a few years. I really wanted to drop time for my senior year, so I really pushed.”

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