Senior leaders pace Thomas Jefferson swimming & diving team
Strong senior leadership is a trait of the Thomas Jefferson swimming and diving team.
On the girls’ side, seniors Elena Savikas, Grace Pletz and Maura Gdovic were WPIAL Class AA qualifiers a year ago as were junior Breanna Smith and sophomore Hallie Findlan.
“The six (senior) girls and two (senior) boys all contribute a high level of drive and maturity to our program,” TJ coach John Penn said. “They are leaders in our swimming program, and many other sports and activities at Thomas Jefferson.
“The drive to succeed is a common bond they all have.”
The TJ girls squad also consists of seniors Carissa Budday, Daisy Halliday and Raelin Krueger, juniors Miranda Stanley and Nieyali Rodriguez and sophomores Mia Olsen, Soliana Porter, Sierra Randolph and Isabelle Yancura.
Freshmen include Riley Baker, Liliana Cooke, Madison Keck, Faith Krueger, Haley Maizer, Sadie Marlow, Audra Morgan, Emma Organist and Rylee Pristas.
Prior to this week’s action, the TJ girls were 9-3 overall and 6-0 in Section 5-AA, splashing past Belle Vernon, Steel Valley, Uniontown, Ringgold, McKeesport and South Park.
The Jaguars lost a 98-82 decision to Elizabeth Forward on Feb. 12 in their final section meet of the season.
Savikas is a third-year captain for the girls team. It is rare for a high school athlete to earn a captaincy role as a sophomore, junior and senior.
Savikas has two favorite events: the 200- and 500-yard freestyle. She plans to study kinesiology and nutrition in college.
“During my sophomore year, I was a little more timid of a leader because it was only my second year on the team,” Savikas said. “Over the past two years, I feel I have really taken to my position and become a leader. I wanted to make sure I did that this year because I knew we had the potential to be a great team.”
Savikas has qualified for this year’s WPIAL meet in the 200 freestyle and in three relay events. Findlan has qualified for WPIALs in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle and three relay events.
Findlan ranked second in Class AA on the WPIAL performance list for both the girls 50 free and 100 free. She logged season-best times of 24.88 in the 50 free and 54.32 in the 100 free against Class AAA South Fayette in a dual meet last month.
The 100 freestyle time broke a school record (55.07) set by Grace Ninesling in 2010.
Findlan, who trains and compete with South Hills Aquatics in the offseason, qualified for the WPIAL finals as a freshman last year in the first meet.
The TJ girls’ 200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay units all have qualified for this year’s WPIAL championships.
The 200 medley relayers consist of Smith, Morgan, Savikas and Findlan. The 200 freestylers are Findlan, Organist, Morgan and Savikas. And the 400 freestylers consist of Findlan, Morgan, Pletz and Savikas.
Halliday and Randolph are diving specialists on the girls team.
Thomas Jefferson’s boys team has been sparked by a trio of sophomores in Luke Pletz, Christian Colosimo and Ian Majetic and senior Noah Georgulis.
A returning multiple WPIAL qualifier, Pletz picked up from there. He has qualified for WPIALs this year in the 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.
The four new athletes on the boys team are senior Ty Folk, sophomore Matt Kail and freshmen John Karnack and Evan Savikas.
Folk was a soccer standout who plans to continue his academic and athletic career at Mount Aloysius, where he will major in nursing.
“This is my first year swimming,” Folk said. “The season has been amazing.”
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.