Girls swimmers, boys divers big at state meet
While both the Parkland boys and girls swimming and diving teams had good showings at last weekend's PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships, the girls fared better in the pool, while the boys excelled on the diving board. Overall, the girls finished sixth out of 57 teams awarded points in the competition, while the boys were 22nd out of 48 teams.
Senior Meghan Polaha came out of her final high school competition with a lot to celebrate, finishing fourth in both the 100 fly and 200 individual medley. Polaha also teamed with fellow senior Abby Walsh, sophomore Erin Jordan and freshman Siena Salvaggio on the 200 free relay team that finished fifth in that event. Walsh, Polaha and Salvaggio were joined by sophomore Erika Freeman for the 400 free relay and came away with a sixth place finish. Walsh would also finish 14th in the 50 free.
"It was great that we did this well for my final state meet," said Polaha. "We all swam hard and battled and that's all you can do."
Salvaggio was a great story and provides just a glimpse of what she may be able to accomplish in the future. As a freshman, Salvaggio was not only a key component on the 200 free team, but finished 10th individually in the 200 free and 16th in the 100 free.
Those finishes were solid, but coach Rob Robitaille believes that for young swimmers, getting their first state competition out of the way early is a key.
"Getting freshmen to the state meet and getting them the experience of a pressure ridden, prelims/finals style meet is always important," said Robitaille. "We are fortunate to have had many kids previously qualify kids previously qualify that could pass their knowledge to the younger kids as the meet was going on."
On the boys side, Rhett Karopoulos, a sophomore, finished 12th in the 100 fly and teamed with seniors Chris Strauss and Harris Nagle and sophomore Colin Orlowski to finish 13th in the 400 free relay.
The divers were the big story on the boys side. Jacob Lenhart, who captured gold at the District 11 Diving Championship last month, finished third in the event at states. Lenhart, who set a number of records during the season, came in as the third seed. Parkland's Joshua Anderson finished 25th and Mitchell Keller finished 26th in the event.
Senior Amanda Zerphy finished 15th at states among the female divers.
"I was happy with how things went," said Lenhart of his performance. "I knew it would be tough to get first, but I just came out and gave it the best that I could and that's really all you can do."
There's always a turnover of athletes thanks to graduation and Parkland will lose some of its leading members. That turnover always leaves open the question of leadership on the squad, but Robitaille looks at leadership roles in a different way.
"We name captains, but really, it's the entire team that should take responsibility for leading themselves to be better. If I have to constantly remind the kids that we are preparing to be highly successful, then there are problems that need to be addressed," said Robitaille. "It should be the responsibility of the entire team to work towards greatness, because in the end, it is the athletes that make the team, not a person labeled 'coach'."