Linton swimmer holds all but one school record

Patrick Varine
| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:52 p.m.

In the moments prior to a swimming race, Isaiah Gregory, 14, stretches and begins jogging in place.

He focuses mentally on what his plan is: what time he wants to set, and what he needs to do to achieve that time.

Then, he goes out and breaks school swimming records — almost all of them.

Gregory, an eighth-grader at Linton Middle School, currently holds record times in all but one event. And the swimmer keeping him from holding all the records? None other than Gregory's older brother, Norman.

“It comes up at home,” Gregory said. “It's a little argument that we have now and then.”

Gregory started swimming at the age of 7, when he worked out with swimming coach Hosea Holder when Holder was at the Kingsley Center in East Liberty. He also swims for the Pittsburgh Stingrays club year-round.

Gregory's coach at Linton, Melanie Popson, said his hard work has paid off.

“These records that he broke date back to 2000 and 2002,” Popson said. “He has a great amount of dedication and drive. Since it's basically an individual sport, to be able to push yourself and drive yourself to want to set these records? It requires a lot of work.”

Gregory said his biggest challenge is overcoming multiple obstacles at one time.

“When you're swimming and you know you need to have a certain time, you have to fight through cramps, or if there's a race against your best friend, you can't think about that, you just have to beat him,” he said.

Even out of the pool, Gregory is in swimming mode.

“We do ‘dry land' training, where we'll run between one and one-and-a-half miles as a warmup, do 30 pushups, 20 situps, we'll hold our feet six inches above the ground (leg lifts) to do core training, and we'll run laps,” he said.

In the summer, after Stingray practice, Gregory heads to the YMCA to lift weights, and said the physicality of the sport is one of his favorite things about it.

“I also like the competitions and the great bond with friends that you can make,” he said.

Gregory's mother, Chinnie, said she began to notice her son excelling at swimming around the age of 11.

“He has two other brothers, and the three are very competitive, even in practice,” Chinnie Gregory said. “Norman is bigger and more muscular, but Isaiah never gives up.”

She talked about a USA Swimming meet where Isaiah finally beat Norman, but also said she noticed how team-oriented her sons were.

“It was just his personality,” she said of Gregory. “He'd win a race, and even if it was over his brother or his friends, they'd be hugging, smiling and excited for each other.”

While the Linton swimming season has ended, Gregory is just getting started: last weekend he was at a meet in Geneva, Ohio, and he is in constant training for his ultimate goal: reaching the Olympics.

But that's not to say he still doesn't have one eye on his brother's lone remaining Linton record

“Something tells me I can do it, but I haven't yet,” Gregory said, smiling.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

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