There is no swimming pool at Mars Area High School so a foursome of swimmers at the school have taken it upon themselves to feel right at home at pools the team visits.
Seniors Thomas Pierre and Christopher Georgiadis and juniors Reed McDonough and Francis Folz set a personal goal before this season to have their names etched on record banners at pools around Western Pennsylvania.
Pierre, Georgiadis, McDonough and Folz specialize in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
“They have set themselves an internal goal to break all the records,” Mars coach Heidi Brandon said. “That is pretty cool considering we don’t have a pool.”
The goal was extremely ambitious, especially considering some of the pools at which Mars competes have been home to some of the fastest WPIAL relays ever, but the foursome has been able to rewrite the record books at nearly all the pools it has visited so far.
McDonough, Folz, Pierre and Georgiadis have set pool records in the 400 freestyle relay at Valley, Butler Area, Deer Lakes and Hopewell. The only pool where they competed in which the relay team did not set a pool record in the 400 freestyle relay was Hampton.
The night before the Hampton relay the Mars team broke a seven-year old pool record at Butler that had belonged to North Allegheny and featured a pair of brothers by the last name of Buerger.
The strong relays and swims by McDonough, Folz, Pierre, Georgiadis and the rest of the 10-person team has helped Mars to a 6-0 record this season, including four section wins. Mars has the busiest regular-season allowed by the WPIAL, competing in 18 dual meets. With a team like this, it is no wonder they want to compete as much as possible.
“Our 400 free relay, they are number one in WPIALs right now in [Class AA],” Brandon said. “We are definitely in the top eight of all high school teams in the country.”
Georgiadis also is excelling in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley. Pierre is one of the top distance freestylers in the WPIAL, standing out in the 200 and 500 freestyles but he can also swim the 200 individual medley. Pierre had strong performances at WPIALs and states last season in the 500 freestyle and 200 individual medley.
Brandon said Georgiadis will likely focus on the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley. Georgiadis took the gold medal in the 200 individual medley last season at WPIALs and he also swam the 500 freestyle but the event, the longest high school swimming event, was challenging as he battles issues related to asthma.
McDonough is the sprint freestyler on the team, focusing on 50 and 100 freestyle while Folz is another freestyler with his best events being the 100 and 200 freestyle.
The growing Mars boys swimming team has plenty of depth behind the relay with some familiar names in sophomores Joseph Folz and Jimmy Pierre, the younger brothers of Francis Folz and Thomas Pierre.
Joseph Folz and Jimmy Pierre swam the distance freestyle events at WPIALs last season. They had nearly identical times in the 200 and 500 freestyle last year, with Joseph Folz taking 15th place and Jimmy Pierre taking 16th place in the 500 freestyle and Jimmy Pierre taking 26th and Joseph Folz taking 28th in the 200 freestyle.
“The younger brothers have told me, next year after Christopher and Thomas have graduated, they are taking their spots in the relays and they are going to be faster,” Brandon said. “They are very competitive with each other.”
Mars finished second overall in the WPIAL Class AA team standings last season with 172 points, behind only Indiana (203). It was a remarkable feat considering Mars is one of the smallest swim teams in the area and the Planets only had six swimmers at the meet.
“Those six boys will go again,” Brandon said. “They are hoping to repeat at a minimum, as WPIAL runner-up. I think Indiana is the team to beat. Of course, we would like to take it and I think we have a good shot at taking it.”