Thomas Jefferson swim teams build on solid core

Thursday, December 21, 2017 | 10:33 PM

Freshman Hallie Findlan made a big splash in the girls swimming program at Thomas Jefferson.

“Hallie qualified for the WPIAL (Class AA) championships in her very first high school meet with phenomenal times in the 50-yard freestyle, in the 25s, and in the 100-yard freestyle, in the 57s,” Thomas Jefferson coach John Penn said.

“We have strengthened a team that lost very few swimmers to graduation last year. Returning swimmers, along with new swimmers this year, are providing high expectations for the girls team.”

Penn is assisted this season by Brian Peters and Jesse Durham, with Amy Wroblewski serving as diving coach.

“The TJ coaching staff is excited this year with all the returning and new athletes,” Penn said.

Back from last year on the girls team are seniors Gabriella Evans and Selena Porter, juniors Elena Savikas, Grace Pletz and Alexa Plasynski, plus sophomore Breanna Smith.

“They are all strong contributors,” Penn said. “Elena is poised in her next swim to qualify for WPIALs for the 200-yard freestyle.

“And our relays are already close to the qualifying times.”

New team members include junior Maura Gdovic, sophomore Becky Pham and Miranda Stanley, and freshmen Mia Olsen, Soliana Porter and Sierra Randolph.

Juniors Daisy Halliday and Victoria Devlin are diving specialists.

Similar to the girls team, there are two seniors on the boys team in Eddie George and Nick Majetic.

“Eddie and Nick are leaders and part of our high expectations for the boys team,” Penn said. “We have replaced two very strong swimmers (multiple WPIAL qualifiers Charles Johnson and Sam Organist) who graduated last year, and even though we have limited numbers we have big expectations.

“Limited numbers may inhibit our efforts, but the quality of the swims will help us as a team. Already after the first official swim meet, we are very close to qualifying the 200 medley and the 200 free relays. We expect the same for the 400 free relay also.”

Noah Georgulis is the lone junior on the boys team; there are no sophomores.

“Noah is a strong member of the team, with solid times in the relays and other individual events,” Penn said.

Top freshman prospects for the Jaguars include Luke Pletz, Ian Majetic and Christian Colosimo.

“Luke is already close to three individual qualifying WPIAL times, plus being a member of all three relays teams,” Penn said. “Ian and Christian are also newcomers to the program but have already demonstrated solid times.”

In all, Penn welcomed seven freshmen into the program this season.

Pletz and Findlan appear to have made the biggest impacts so far.

“Luke and Hallie are pleasant additions to the team,” Penn said. “They are not surprises as they have been strong swimmers.”

The TJ swimmers and divers practice and hold home meets at nearby Elizabeth Forward.

“The coaching staff and the athletes are anxiously awaiting the completion of the new Thomas Jefferson High School next year, with an eight-lane, state-of-the-art swimming pool and two diving boards,” Penn said. “We are very thankful for the West Jefferson Hills School District administrators and the school board for their confidence to build a state-of-the-art facility for the school district, the younger swimmers in the district and the taxpayers in the district.

“We are (also) very thankful for our support from the Elizabeth Forward School District and (EF coach) Shawna Boden and her staff for working with us to continue our great relationship and to foster swimming and diving in the South Hills.”

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.

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