This is the final in a series of eight articles profiling the Seneca Valley Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2019.
WPIAL championships have been earned by a number of programs at Seneca Valley High School. From baseball to track, cross country, lacrosse, softball and soccer, athletes in each have contributed efforts that led to team glory.
But it was in the water where that lofty standard was first achieved.
SV's 1974-75 boys swimming and diving team shouldered high expectations and won WPIAL gold, the initial district team title for Seneca Valley, which had been formed just 10 years before.
The Raiders won all 14 meets during the regular season before being crowned champion at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool in February.
The entire team will be inducted into the Seneca Valley Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night.
SV's title in 1975 came when all WPIAL schools with swim teams were lumped into one classification.
“Back then, Seneca Valley was a small school,” said then-head coach Bill Miller. “We went up against schools that were much bigger — Bethel Park, Peters Township, Butler, Gateway. We didn't remind the kids of that, but they knew it.
“We had great depth on that team and it was the biggest reason we won.”
The high hopes surrounding Seneca Valley as the 1974-75 season began stemmed from the program's recent success.
“In the four years prior to us winning the title, our record was 57-3,” said Miller.
The Raiders rolled through the regular season and two wins in particular after the calendar turned to 1975 reaffirmed that it was destined to be a special year.
One was a meeting with defending WPIAL champ Peters Township, with the Raiders knocking off the Indians 96-76. The other was against a foe just 15 miles up the road.
Butler also had a very strong team in the 1970s and when the Golden Tornado and Raiders got together, it was more than a swim meet.
“Whether it was at Seneca Valley or Butler, the place was completely packed,” said Mark Van Dyke, a senior that season. “That's one of my favorite memories from high school.”
Butler provided SV with its stiffest test that season its stiffest test of the season as the Raiders prevailed 91-81.
Talent had combined with an unrelenting work ethic to set the Raiders up for glory.
“We'd have double-workouts three or four times per week,” said Van Dyke. “We'd have one practice in the morning before school started, then another after school was over. It wore on us, but was one of the reasons we did so well.”
Van Dyke was part of the team's leadership.
“We always wanted to be as good as them,” said Bill Irvine, a sophomore in 1974-75. “We challenged each other.”
The day of the WPIAL championship meet, Miller truly believed his team was on the cusp of making history.
He related: “I remember saying, 'Guys, we got a shot to do something you'll remember for the rest of your lives.'”
But it was far from easy. At one point in the meet, the Raiders trailed Butler by 44 points. Then the depth touted by Miller took over. The Raiders scored 24 points alone in the 100-yard backstroke, including Van Dyke (second), Dave McKee (seventh) and Dale Fletcher (ninth). After Rich Dobrzanski took third in the breaststroke, the Raiders were just four points behind both Butler and Peters Township.
The district championship came down to the final event, the 400 freestyle relay. Though SV did not win the event, the foursome of Van Dyke, Irvine, Fletcher and Roger Druschel placed second, clinching the title.
“I remember the excitement surrounding that meet,” said Irvine. “On the bus ride home, everybody was ecstatic.”
Van Dyke was very capable in many events and could have challenged for multiple individual titles, but recognized he was more valuable to the Raiders that day on the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.
“We had a chance to do something that had never been done before,” said Van Dyke. “We were willing to do whatever it took to bring success to the team.”
1974-75 SV roster
Following are the members of Seneca Valley's 1974-75 boys swimming and diving team. The Raiders captured the first WPIAL team championship in school history that season. The entire team will be inducted into the Seneca Valley Sports Hall of Fame Saturday.
Randy Ifft, Thomas Kobet, Don McKee, Mark Van Dyke, Scot Wallace, Philip Werner, Chuck Wilson, Bruce Meeder
Tom Black, Roger Druschel, Dale Fletcher, Jeff Zinkham
Scott Alexander, Barry Baur, Bob Carbeau, Bob Davis, Rich Dobrzanski, Doug Foyle, Bill Irvine, David McKee, Rich Pracht, Todd Slack, Tom Szakelyhidi
David Bird, Dean Fletcher, Mike Funk, Erich Huy, Steve Van Dyke, Scott Klavon
Head Coach: Bill Miller
Assistant: Jim Cupp