West Xtra: Hopewell sophomore has WPIAL swimming title shot

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Steve DeLatte always wants what is best for his student-athletes.

So, when the Hopewell High School varsity swimming coach and Hopewell School District aquatics director knew that he had an athlete on his team who needed to swim at a club facility better than what he could offer, he sent promising backstroker Logan Palochak to the West Allegheny Swim Club.

The West Allegheny Swim Club competes at a high level and uses the pool at West Allegheny High School, which is a lerger facility than Hopewell has.

"That allows him to get more yardage in as our pool here only has five lanes," DeLatte said. "I had him in our swim club starting when he was 10 years old. I knew he had the talent and when it got to the point where he couldn't improve any more in our club, that's when I advised him to swim for West Allegheny.

"I don't hold my kids back. I encourage them to seek better training facilities than what I could offer."

But just because Palochak was using West Allegheny's facilities with the club team didn't change his varsity status. He remained a student in the Hopewell district and that meant DeLatte would see him again when Palochak began competing at the high school level.

"What he's doing now is that he practices with our team, and then he goes over to the West Allegheny pool and swims with his club team," DeLatte said.

The time spent in both the Hopewell and West Allegheny pools is paying off nicely for Palochak, a 15-year-old sophomore who has the best qualifying time in WPIAL Class AA for the 100-yard backstroke heading into the WPIAL swimming championships that begins today and conclude tomorrow at Trees Pool on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

Palochak presented quite a pleasant dilemma for DeLatte. An athlete is permitted to swim a maximum of four events in a meet. But Palochak's versatility allowed the coach to place him in a variety of events throughout the season, holding fast to the four-event rule.

As a result, Palochak posted qualifying times in the 50 freestyle, the 100 freestyle, the 100 backstroke, the 100 butterfly, the 100 breaststroke, the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle. In addition to the backstroke, he will swim in the 100 butterfly where he has the sixth-fastest qualifying time and will also swim legs on the Vikings 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay teams.

Although he won't swim in all of those events (PIAA rules only permit a swimmer to compete in four), Palochak is pleased about his feat.

"I feel [qualifying in seven events] is an accomplishment," he said. "I try to swim better times, and I wanted to see how well I could do in all of those events."

Although pleased with his noteworthy feat, Palochak believes it is best for him to focus on the four races in which he will compete, and he is particularly focused on the backstroke.

"My previous best was a 55.20 [before he swam in the Midwestern Athletic Conference championship at Moon]," he said. "I did have some nervous energy and that competition pushed me to the 54.42. I think I have it in me to swim a 52."

He will find out soon enough.

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