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Friday, March 1, 2024

Westmoreland high school athletes of the week: Mt. Pleasant’s Kiersten O’Connor and Franklin Regional’s Troy McClelland


Saturday, February 10, 2024 | 5:59 PM

Kiersten O’Connor

School: Mt. Pleasant

Sport: Swimming

Class: Junior

Claim to fame: O’Connor won the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard freestyle, while also swimming lead-off legs of the first-place 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relays in a 99-84 victory over Kiski Area.

Earlier this season, she won the 100-yard backstroke in record-breaking fashion at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Championships at Derry with a time of 56.03 seconds, breaking a 14-year-old mark by a full second. The Vikings won the team title.

Last year, O’Connor won the 50 free at the WPIAL championships and finished third in the WPIAL and PIAA in the 100 back. She also helped the 200-yard medley and 200 free relays win gold medals.

Mt. Pleasant won WPIAL and state team trophies last season with her competing in four events.

This year, O’Connor has the No. 1 time in 2A in the 100 backstroke (56.03), and also has top-three times in the 50 free and 100 free.

How is your season going in relation to your expectations?

This season is going great so far, it has already exceeded my expectations, so I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season brings.

What are your best times so far?

I had two personal bests at WCCAs this year in the 100 back (56.03) and the 100 free (52.41).

What are your goals for this postseason?

To drop time in my events and to help my team to the best of my abilities.

What do you enjoy most about swimming?

The immense support system that you have in your team and coaches. Some of my best friends are my teammates, and I’m so lucky that I’m able to grow in the sport I love with my friends right beside me.

What made you first take up the sport?

My entire family is very swim-oriented, but I never competitively swam until after I decided to stop dancing and my mom suggested I start aqua club. I fell in love with it, and I never stopped.

Do you play other sports?

I play tennis in the fall, and the last two years I ran track in the spring as well.

Have you ever tried diving?

I have never dived before, but I did gymnastics when I was really little and I stopped right before I started swimming.

What are your other hobbies?

I love hanging out with my friends whenever I’m not at swim. I like to ski as well, and I love traveling.

Do you have a pool at home?

I don’t have a pool at home, although I ask my mom if we can get one all the time.

Do you have a pre-swim routine?

Everyday before swim, I make sure to stretch and eat a snack to fuel me for practice.

What’s it like training with an athlete like Lily King?

It’s really great. She’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and no one will hype you up like Lily King. I’m lucky to have such a great teammate that supports me in and out of the pool.

Do athletics run in your family?

Yes. My entire family is very athletic. My grandma sparked an athletic interest in my whole family. My mom swam in college, and both of my brothers were super involved in multiple sports in high school.

Why is the Mt. Pleasant program so successful?

It comes down to the coaches, and the Mt. Pleasant swim program is beyond lucky in that department. All of our swim coaches are amazing. On top of the coaches, we also have a team filled with beyond dedicated and talented swimmers.

If you could swim five events in a meet, what would be your fifth?

If I could swim five events I would definitely pick to be in three relays and two individual events. Relays are my favorite because you get to work as a team.

Any interesting life occurrences or stories to tell?

When I was little my family used to travel for my brother’s baseball tournaments. One of the tournaments, our whole team stayed in the same hotel and we got kicked out because we were being too loud. Those tournaments are still some of my favorite memories.

Do you have any pets?

I have one dog, and her name is Roxy. She’s an Australian Blue Heeler (cattle dog), and anyone that’s ever met her loves her.

What’s the earliest time you’ve been in the pool to train?

When we practice before school, we have to be in the pool by 5:45 a.m., and that’s definitely the earliest I’ve ever swam.

What’s your favorite movie, book, and TV show?

My favorite movie is “The Proposal.” My favorite book is “Verity” by Colleen Hoover. And my favorite show is, “One Tree Hill.”

Have you ever met a celebrity?

The only celebrity I’ve ever met was Kendall Vertes from “Dance Moms.”

Are you a Taylor Swift fan?

I listen to her songs occasionally, but usually I would rather listen to something else.

Are you going to a Super Bowl party?

My family is hosting one at our house this year.

What’s the best advice you’ve received and from whom?

The best advice I’ve ever received was “don’t settle.” My mom told me that a while back, and I think of her saying that every time I’m struggling with something.

People would be surprised to know I _____?

Taught myself how to play the ukulele and guitar during covid.

Troy McClelland

School: Franklin Regional

Class: Senior

Sport: Wrestling

Claim to fame: Since the postseason began for the Panthers, McClelland has been on a roll. He went 7-0, including 4-0 in Hershey, and helped the Panthers to a top-eight finish at the PIAA Class 3A team tournament. He improved to 27-10 competing at 189- and 215-pound weight classes.

Talk about the experience of wrestling in a big tournament and making it to the final day?

It was a real great experience being with my team. It’s my last year, so it was really nice to actually have a good team to come here with.

How about the experience for winning here? You were a key reason for the team’s success by getting some very big wins and competing at different weights.

It was super exciting. My coaches give me the confidence, and I try to wrestle my best and tell me I’m better than who is in front of me and I believe them.

How many years have you been wrestling?

I started in seventh grade. I remember it was really hard, and I wasn’t good at all. I just got beat up. But I knew I couldn’t stop there.

Do you hope to wrestle in college?

Yes I do. I haven’t made a decision yet. I want a school that appreciates what I can give them. I want to be a key part of the lineup. As for my education, I want to own a business, and I want a place that can give a business degree.

What do you like the most: MMA or pro wrestling?

Pro wrestling. There is more money in pro wrestling. My favorite wrestle is Rey Mysterio.

Who is your favorite wrestler all-time?

Vito Arujau. He overcame a lot of odds. People didn’t think he could beat RBY (Roman Bravo Young), and he dominated. It gives me confidence that I can do anything.

Was is your most memorable moment in high school?

It was the third-place match against Bethel Park, and I pinned Landon Hartman. He was a pretty good 215-pounder, and I pulled off an upset pin.

What made Franklin Regional so special?

The camaraderie. Everyone is behind one another and the coaches are even further behind us. We’re just a tight knit group, and everyone battles for each other.

What is the last movie you watched?

The Super Mario movie. It’s pretty good, not my favorite. Cartoony.

Do you have any rituals before a match?

I start getting ready during the 145-pound match. I stand up and make sure my body feels right. I bounce around, and by 160 pounds, I have my headgear on and I’m telling myself I can do this.

What type of music do you listen to?

I like all types of music.

Is there something you do that you friends would be surprised to learn?

The amount of work I put in. They probably don’t know that I’m always working extra.

Where do you and your teammates go to for a snack after practice or game?

Normally we go to Sheetz. It’s close to the school, and you can get what you want. I get Galliker’s chocolate milk. If we’re hungrier, we go to Chipotle for a bowl with chicken.

What is the favorite meal your mom makes you?

I love her spaghetti.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?

I spent two weeks in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and it was great.

Is there a vacation spot you’d like to visit?

I always wanted to go to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. It looks super cool. I’d like to experience that.

Who do you like in the Super Bowl?

I’m rooting for the Niners. I don’t like the Chiefs

If you were to have dinner with someone special, who would it be, and what would you talk about?

Probably Jesus and I want to learn more about him.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at [email protected].

Tags: Mt. Pleasant

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