Greater Latrobe and Derry Area swimmers will be highlighted for the next two days.
The Wildcats and Trojans will participate in the WPIAL Class 3A and 2A Swimming Championships Thursday and Friday at the University of Pittsburgh’s Trees Pool.
“We’re young, so a lot of it is going to be an experience,” Greater Latrobe coach Grey Arrigonie said. “We have a lot of first-time swimmers.”
Six events will take place on Thursday (200 medley relay, 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50 free, 100 butterfly, 200 free relay) while five more (100 free, 500 free, 100 back, 100 breaststroke, 400 free relay) are set for Friday.
Unlike prior years, when several athletes qualified, only one will receive an automatic bid to the PIAA Class 2A and 3A state meet, which is set for March 11-14 at Bucknell University in Lewisburg. The rest of the field will be filled based on the fastest times throughout the state.
“These kids have all been such a joy to work with this season,” Derry Area coach Jeff Kelly said. “They have really put everything into it and have grown a great deal through the process.”
Derry Area’s Wes Buhite is the lone area returning state qualifying swimmer. Teammate Ali Cowan qualified for the state meet last season — and again last Friday — in diving.
Buhite finished his junior season 26th in the state in the 100 breast. He qualified for the state meet for the first time last season. Buhite finished ninth in the district, but reached the state meet based on his time from the WPIAL Class 2A Championships.
Buhite qualified for this year’s WPIAL Class 2A Championships in seven events, but he will swim in two. Buhite is seeded ninth in the 100 breast and he is also scheduled to compete in the 200 individual medley.
Buhite’s brother, Jake Buhite qualified for the WPIAL Class 2A Championships in six events, but he will also compete in two. Jake Buhite, also a senior, is seeded one spot ahead of his brother in eighth place in the 100 breast. He is also ranked No. 17 in the 200 free entering the WPIAL Class 2A Championships.
“The Buhites are quiet, but they very much want to finish out their careers with a trip to the PIAA Championships,” Kelly said.
Derry Area’s Lauren Angus qualified in the 50 free and 100 breast while Makenzie Eades reached the WPIAL Class 2A Championships in the 100 breast for the Lady Trojans.
“The swimmers have been working very hard and are trying to recover from some very difficult weeks when we had three meets in a very short span,” Kelly said. “The girls were probably hit harder than the boys with that grueling stretch of meets. Several got sick and are struggling to get healthy for the meet.”
Derry Area qualified all three relay teams on the girls and boys side.
The Lady Trojans qualified Keely Siko, Eades, Angus and Abby Kubiak in the 200 medley and 200 free relays. They also qualified Kubiak, Emily Bolish, Deana Henderson and Siko in the 400 free relay.
“Lauren Angus, Makenzie Eades, Keely Siko and Abby Kubiak are the veterans, and they will lead the way for the less experienced swimmers Deana Henderson and Emily Bolish,” Kelly said.
“It has been a tough season and they have all worked so hard. I am very hopeful that they will reap the benefits of their hard work.”
The DA boys qualified Wes and Jake Buhite, Brandyn Findish and Caleb Shaulis in the 200 free relay. The Trojans will also send Wes and Jake Buhite, Jacob Short and Shaulis in the 400 free relay. The group of Shaulis, Jakob Riggle, Devin Sheffler and Findish qualified in the 200 medley relay.
“All the boys have been putting in extra time working on relay starts and trying to get their timing perfect,” Kelly said. “I look forward to seeing how Jacob Short, Devin Sheffler and Brandyn Findish handle their trip to the big meet. There will no doubt be a lot of energy on the pool deck.”
Hannah Brewer is the lone individual WPIAL qualifier for the Greater Latrobe girls, who made it in the 100 butterfly. The Wildcat boys have four individual qualifiers, including Colin Spehar (100 back, 100 butterfly), Corbin Makar (100 breast), Brendan Bugala and Gavin Skwirut (200 individual medley and 50 free).
“We have some veterans on the boys side,” Arrigonie said. “The other ones are younger. We have a couple juniors, sophomores and freshmen in this year. It’s definitely going to be a learning experience for a bunch of them, swimming their first time at the WPIAL meet.”
The Greater Latrobe boys qualified all three relay teams. The 200 free relay team includes Makar, Daniel Marinchak, Julian Zhu and Skwirut, while Bugala, Makar, Spehar and Skwirut comprise the 200 medley relay team. Spehar, Marinchak, Liam Mucino and Skwirut are part of the 400 free relay team.
GL’s lone relay team on the girls side includes Brewer, Andrea Hoffman, Gracie Wetzel and Molly Bobik.
“It’s exciting because sometimes they don’t know what to expect and they swim lights out,” Arrigonie said. “Sometimes you get some big surprises because the younger ones are excited.
“But it’s always nice to have that group of older ones who come in and make sure you’re ready and where you’re supposed to be. You have to work through nerves sometimes.
“It’s all a learning process. The earlier they get through it, the more it sets them up for bigger things.”