West Xtra: West Allegheny boys making a splash for a change

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Successful girls swimming teams have come to be expected at West Allegheny High School, but this year veteran coach Bob Miller is excited about the potential of his boys team, too.

Not only do the Indians have speed on the boys side, but they have depth with 15 boys out for the team this year.

“What is exciting for us this year is we have a decent boys team, it has been a while since we have had a decent boys team,” Miller said. “There are some good ones and it is a very young crew.”

Those 15 swimmers is a significant bump over recent seasons. Over the past three years the Indians had eight, seven and nine boys on the team.

“So basically we’re almost twice the size this year,” Miller said. “It fills a lot of holes that we couldn’t fill before and a bunch are from our club team. These are not just ‘walk-on’ swimmers who aren’t familiar.”

With 10 freshmen among of the 15 varsity swimmers, the future looks bright for West Allegheny. There are also three sophomores.

The large freshman class is headlined by Michael Kocher, Derek Currey, Devon Brown Eric Tokarski and Gary McMurtrie with sophomores Ashton Pietroboni, Noah Macek and Zach Sterner and senior Tom Currey also having strong seasons.

“It is fun making a boys lineup,” Miller said. “In the past I had been limited to what I could do. Now I can have two relay teams and three boys in every event and fill a lineup out. We are not going to lose to teams by giving them open spots.”

At the Big 6 Invitational meet this weekend at Central York High School, the Indians showcased their depth and speed. The West Allegheny boys finished second in the six-team meet, behind host Central York and three points ahead of third-place Lancaster Catholic, last year’s winner.

Kocher and Pietroboni each had top-six finishes in their individual events and all three West Allegheny relay teams performed well.

“Second [place] was a big step up for our boys team,” Miller said. “The guys team keeps developing and improving as our season progresses.”

Pietroboni is a returning WPIAL qualifier and an up-and-coming, versatile distance freestyler. He finished 21st last season in the 200-yard individual medley and 25th in the 500 freestyle at the WPIAL Class AA championships.

In the first month of this season Pietroboni had shaved 14 seconds off his best time from last year. In a recent dual meet against Freedom Area, Pietroboni showcased his versatility by swimming the 50 freestyle and finishing in second place with a MAC-qualifying time of 24.93 and swimming the 100 backstroke in a WPIAL-qualifying time of 1:04.60.

“He has come out of the gate strong compared to where he was last year,” Miller said. “Ashton is working hard.”

Kocher, McMurtrie, Derek Currey and Pietroboni took sixth place in the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay at the West Allegheny Christmas Invitational, one of the fastest meets of the WPIAL season. The foursome has achieved a WPIAL qualifying time at multiple events this season.

Pietroboni finished fifth in the 500 freestyle at WA’s Christmas Invitational. It was one of the highest individual finishes for a West Allegheny boy. Brown and Macek took 12th and 13th in the same event. Derek Currey finished sixth in the 100 breaststroke at the event.

Kocher had the best individual finish on the team at the Christmas Invitational with a second-place finish in the 100 backstroke with a time of 58.67.

“[Kocher] is going to be real good,” Miller said. “He is young but we will see how he responds. He swam 57 seconds in the 100 back — that is a fast time. I didn’t think he was going to go that fast, that early.”

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