Swink was a three-sport star for the Falcons in the early 2000’s; she excelled at basketball, softball, and cross country.
Swink was the centerpiece of some very good Connellsville basketball teams that posted records of 19-9 in 1997-98 when the Falcons lost to North Allegheny 60-36 in the WPIAL playoffs. In 1998-99, they were 15-11 and lost to Oakland Catholic in the WPIAL playoffs 78-51.
The 1999-2000 season was a down year for Connellsville as they fell to a record of 8-14, but they bounced back in Swink’s senior season in 2000-01 to make a run in the WPIAL playoffs and go on to the PIAA playoffs. They finished with a record of 22-6, beating Kiski Area 62-41 and Mt. Lebanon 50-42. The lost in the WPIAL semifinals to Ambridge 51-44. In the PIAA playoffs, the Falcons downed Erie Central 59-39 before falling to Mt. Lebanon 44-43.
“I think the 22-6 record is the best that Connellsville has had; they haven’t had that kind of record since then,” Swink offered. “It was a great period for Connellsville girls basketball and I wish and I hope they accomplish something like that again. It was a fun time.
“It was a good good group of girls: Shawna Little, Chelcie Costabile, Jen Salandra and myself.
This group of seniors that played together from junior high up until we were seniors. It really clicked by the time it was our senior year.”
The 6-1 Swink tallied 1,500 points in her Connellsville career and was All-Section as a junior and
“You kind of don’t realize what you are doing until you look back,” Swink said. “It’s a great accomplishment and I owe it to my teammates, I obviously wasn’t dribbling too much and they had to give me the ball, and I think they were as excited as I was when I got to 1,000 points.”
Swink also excelled in softball at Connellsville. She played four years for the Falcons. As a freshman in 1997-98 she was on a team that finished 26-7 and lost to Parkland 2-0 in the Class AAA state championship game. In 1998-99, the Falcons went 19-3 during the regular season and lost in the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs.
During the 1999-2000 season, Connellsville posted a 13-7 record, and in Swink’s senior season, the Falcons finished 18-7 and lost to Baldwin 2-0 in the WPIAL semifinals and dropped a 1-0 decision to Meadville in 10 innings in the PIAA playoffs.
“My freshman and sophomore teams were really good,” Swink stated. “Unfortunately, we didn’t win it all when I was a freshman, but it was an awesome run. I developed into a pitcher as a junior and a senior. Janelle Pepe and her dad Gary actually taught me how to pitch. They are from Bullskin Township and I played little league with Janelle. She was a pitcher in little league and her dad saw something in me, and I would work with them and that’s how I got started with pitching. When Janelle was a senior I was a sophomore, so she was pitching until my junior and senior year.
“Before I started pitching, I played first base, third, and a little bit of outfield my freshman year as well as designated hitter. We had tremendous athletes, it was a good experience.”
When Swink got on the mound as a junior and a senior she turned into a dominant pitcher. She was All-Section as a junior and a senior. In her junior season, Swink was 13-7 with 185 strikeouts. In her senior campaign, she posted a 14-3 record with 139 strikeouts. Swink tossed a 1-0 no-hitter against Penn Hills in the WPIAL playoffs in 2001. She had 11 shutouts that season.
“It was a thrill to toss the no-hitter,” Swink recalled. “I was looking back through my scrapbook and remembered that I wasn’t feeling very well that day. I had a couple of other no-hitters, I actually threw a no-hitter against Elizabeth Forward and lost the game 1-0 on an error.”
Swink also competed in cross country for Connellsville.
“I did cross country for three years and my junior year I decided to give soccer a try, but I had never played it before, and it was just starting to get popular,” Swink said. “Our girls had no idea what we were doing, I think we just kicked the ball around, and I went back to cross country. It got me in better shape for basketball.”
Swink won the WPIAL Scholar/Athlete Award as a senior and donated the money to the school to help provide the softball program with a new scoreboard and dugouts.
“I had a full scholarship, so I couldn’t use the money,” Swink said. “So I talked with the school administration, and we put the money toward that.”
When Swink graduated from Connellsville in 2001, she sifted through some college scholarship offers.
“I loved softball and ideally that’s what I wanted to play in college from the time I was in kindergarten,” Swink explained. “I didn’t start playing basketball until I was in eighth grade and ended up being good at it. I honestly developed a love for basketball later and when opportunity came around, basketball was giving me full scholarship offers and it just worked out.”
Swink decided to attend Saint Francis of Loretto on a basketball scholarship. She was on four straight NCAA tournament teams. The Red Flash were 19-12 in 2001-02, 23-8 in 2002-03, 25-6 in 2003-04 and in Swink’s senior season they posted a record of 21-10.
“I wanted to stay close to home,” Swink said. “I fell in love with Saint Francis. We were a powerhouse in the NEC; it was a great four years, not many people can say they made it to the NCAA tournament four years in a row. One memory sticks out, my first year we played at UConn in the tournament, and that was a great experience playing against Swin Cash, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. It was a experience like no other.”
Swink left her mark on the Saint Francis record book. She was Northeast Conference MVP (2004), All-NEC First Team (2005, 2004, 2003) and Academic All-America (2005, 2004). In her four seasons with the Red Flash, Swink amassed 2,127 points (third highest in Saint Francis and NEC history) and 957 rebounds (fourth most among Saint Francis players).
When Swink graduated from Saint Francis, she was invited to attend training camp with the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Connecticut Sun.
“The tryout was intense. That’s where I realized there was a difference between playing basketball for fun and playing basketball for a career,” Swink stated. “It was business. It was great to have a shot. I was too small of a forward or center to play at that level.”
Swink continued to play overseas. She joined J’mtland, a professional women’s basketball team in Sweden, where she played for two seasons.
Swink was honored in 2012. She was inducted into the Northeast Conference Hall of Fame. Swink, along with Marist’s Rik Smits and Fairleigh Dickinson’s Tom Green, made up the2011-12 class.
Two more honors came Swink’s way in 2015. In August, she was inducted into the St. Francis University Athletics Hall of Fame, and in September she was part of the class of the 2015 Falcon Foundation Hall of Fame at Connellsville High School.
“Both events were really awesome to be a part of,” Swink said. “Both of the events I ended up being one of the younger inductees and it was a neat experience being with some of the older players and people from Connellsville.”
Swink lived in Evansville, Ind., where she worked in spinal surgery with Tri-State Orthopedic.She has moved back home to Connellsville and is working for Med Express in Uniontown.