A few minutes into the Peters Township High School boys swimming and diving team’s practice Tuesday afternoon, head coach Tom Fletcher looked at the middle of the pool, then the far left and laughed.
Ten swimmers were crammed into one lane, four in another.
Seems even when you try to separate seniors Kyle Higgins, Dan Pletz and Chris Buzard it doesn’t work.
So why bother?
Higgins, Pletz and Buzard are all planning on swimming in college, two of them at the Division I level, but before they get there they’ll try to propel Peters Township from a third-place finish at last year’s WPIAL Class AAA championships to second or first this season, perhaps leapfrogging Upper St. Clair or North Allegheny.
“I’ve grown up swimming with both of them, and we’ve become really close,” Higgins said. “We’ve been an important part of the team, and it will be a good feeling finishing my career with those two.”
Higgins and Buzard are Division I-caliber swimmers, with the former committed to the University of Kentucky and the latter deciding between Eastern Michigan and Delaware. Pletz will likely choose between Westminster and Wheeling Jesuit.
Along with Andrew Rich, Peters Township’s only significant loss from last season, the group holds school records in the 200-yard medley and freestyle relays, as well as the 400 freestyle relay. Buzard has the 100 breaststroke record, Higgins the 500 free, but it’s not just those three.
The Indians’ 11-member senior class also includes Jason Lee, Corey Kehm, Cam Winterhalter, Josh Howard, Kevin Crawford, Troy Richert, Cody Pyles and Christian Schratz.
It’s a group that helped Peters Township win its first section title since 2007 last season and one that will look to repeat the feat in Section 4-AAA, trying to navigate past two perennial contenders in Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair.
“It’ll be a sad Senior Night,” Fletcher said. “It’s rare to have a class that size and that talented. Usually, you lose kids (over four years) and you just aren’t able to retain guys like that. But we have 11 guys, and they’re all quality athletes. It’s really an anomaly.”
Higgins, Pletz and Buzard started swimming together with the Peters Township Swim Club when they were 8 years old, along with other members of the class. As evidenced by Tuesday’s overcrowding incident, the three have always been close – and, perhaps most important, have always challenged each other.
“It comes in handy being in the pool with them because every day you have two people who are pushing you to your limits and making you progress,” Buzard said. “It’s beneficial for all three of us because even on sets when you don’t have to try very hard, we don’t want to lose; we all want to beat each other.”
Buzard was fifth at last year’s WPIAL meet in the 100 breaststroke, ninth in the 50 freestyle; Pletz took fourth in the 200 individual medley; Higgins and Pletz finished sixth and eighth, respectively, in the 500 freestyle. All three relays placed in the top six.
The three have been excellent stewards for Peters Township’s program and have the Indians pointed toward success in the future.
“Both of my older brothers swam here, and I think they had only one section title,” Pletz said. “For us to win one, and hopefully win another one this year, would be huge. I think it would send a message to the little kids and say, ‘Hey, look how good our team is.’
“Hopefully, it makes them want to swim in high school and continue the tradition.”
The Indians’ WPIAL title aspirations started this offseason, when they took only a week-and-a-half off in August and stayed in the school’s 50-meter outdoor pool until late September.
Two mornings last year became three this fall, but here’s perhaps the most telling indication that Peters Township means business: By Buzard’s estimate, practices are about 15 minutes longer than last year, though the Indians have put in about triple the yardage.
Talk about increasing the intensity.
“I think we all kind of realized that we have a chance to do something great,” Buzard said. “We all decided as a team to put in the work and try to get to that point of runner-up or a WPIAL championship.”