‘Hidden Gems’ of Foxes Athletics

They did it again. The Foxes boys and girls swim teams, both undefeated in WPIAL Class 3A Section 3, once again captured their respective section crowns. It is the fourth undefeated consecutive section title for the girls’ team and the third undefeated consecutive section title for the boys.

Their accomplishments are a culmination of a deep love of the sport, something that most often started when they were young tadpole swimmers and then moved on to a higher developmental level offered to all ages at the club level. Almost every Fox Chapel Area High School swimmer started that way. Now, almost all of them swim year-round. After taking off a few weeks each year following the state meet, they begin the cycle all over again.

Coach Dan Taylor says the program’s success is due to this culture where hard work is the expectation, and it is something that motivates his swimmers.

“This season, every high school swimmer was also on the club team last fall, and almost all of them swim club year-round, which certainly helps to contribute to the success of the high school team,” says coach Taylor. “I feel that the swimmers take a certain amount of pride and responsibility in maintaining this culture, which leads to successful seasons.”

The pool practices can be challenging, but so are the dryland exercises and activities that the coaches model after college-level routines.

Coach Taylor explains, “Our goal is to maximize our swimmers’ fitness levels while adding strength and power throughout the season. Not only does this contribute to their success, but it also helps to prevent injuries and prepare swimmers for college, should that be a path they choose.”

Boys Overcame Challenges

The boys team’s path to winning the section title this year was not an easy one. The team was significantly smaller, so the swimmers had the extra challenge of overcoming some deficits in a number of events.

Sophomore Owen Howell, who will swim the 200 individual medley (IM) and 100 breaststroke events at the WPIAL championships, as well as in some relays, says, “Everyone had to step up. We were all faced with more events to swim and more pressure due to there being less depth on our team to rely on. Despite these challenges, with great leadership from our seniors, and a determination stronger than we’ve ever had before, I’m proud to say the boys team came out of this season even stronger.

“The team is filled with some of the hardest workers I know, and we are always there to support each other at all times. I think our willingness to put in 10 times more work than the next guy, but still be able to have fun, is what makes this team truly special.”

Girls Shine Again

The girls team pretty much sailed through the regular season, thanks to a nice-sized roster that was balanced by older, more experienced swimmers, along with young upcoming talent.

Claudia Smith, who qualified for WPIALs in the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke, has been part of the team for three years and says there is no other team that has the same qualities as the Foxes.

“Every single person on this team works hard, cheers loud, and competes with passion every single time he or she gets off the block,” she says. “I wouldn’t be the swimmer I am today without the outstanding competitors I get to practice with every day. I’m so grateful we have each other to push ourselves along, and at the end of the day, we all want success for each other. Just knowing that our section banner reads “Section Champions” year after year is just huge. Our swimming and diving teams are truly the ‘hidden gems’ of Fox Chapel Area athletics.”

That perseverance has assured a strong Fox Chapel Area presence at the WPIAL championships. The Foxes’ automatic qualifiers are:


Jackson Hagler

Ellie Dering

Ainsley Anderson


200 medley relay team

200 freestyle relay team

400 freestyle relay team

50 freestyle – Sarah Pasquella, Talia Bugel, and Sophie Shao

100 freestyle – Sarah Pasquella, Sophie Shao, and Payton O’Toole

200 freestyle – Sophie Shao, Payton O’Toole, Sarah Pasquella

500 freestyle – Sarah Pasquella, Payton O’Toole, and Rayna Huang

100 backstroke ­– Talia Bugel and Margaret Rusche

100 breaststroke – Sarah Pasquella, Sophie Shao, Isabella Marcos, and Claudia Smith

100 butterfly – Sophie Shao, Margaret Rusche, and Payton O’Toole

100 IM – Sophie Shao, Sarah Pasquella, Claudia Smith, Isabella Marcos, Margaret Rusche, and Payton O’Toole


200 medley relay team

200 freestyle relay team

400 freestyle relay team

50 freestyle – Emmanuel Drappatz

100 freestyle – Christian Dantey and Aadil Pattada

200 freestyle – Owen Howell, Emmanuel Drappatz, and Henry Koloc

500 freestyle – Christian Dantey

100 backstroke – Aadil Pattada

100 breaststroke – Owen Howell and Christian Dantey

100 butterfly – Christian Dantey

200 IM – Owen Howell, Christian Dantey, and Henry Koloc

The WPIAL diving championships will be held February 24 (2A) & 25 (3A) at North Allegheny High School, and the WPIAL swimming championships will be held March 2 & 3 at Trees Pool at the University of Pittsburgh.