WPIAL champion Larson from Penn Hills lands top seed in two events at states
For several years, Penn Hills senior Gabriel Larson was the hunter at the WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships, as he swam among the best in his events and sought medal-winning performances and places atop the medals stand.
This year, Larson found himself at the top of the mountain in two events at the WPIALs at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool. Now, he will be the hunted at the PIAA championships, Friday and Saturday at Bucknell University.
Larson claimed WPIAL titles in both the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke at WPIALs on Feb. 28 and March 1. His efforts put him in the top-seed slot for both events at states.
“It's an indescribable feeling,” Larson said.
“I've always dreamed of being first at WPIALs. That is what drove me in my training. It's better than I could've imagined.”
Larson swam to first in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 56.73. He edged out rival Drew Nosbisch, a senior from Gateway.
The two east-suburban swimmers tied for second in the 100 breaststroke last year, and Larson finished as runner-up to Nosbisch's brother, Luke, in 2010.
“Always knowing (Drew Nosbisch) was going to be right there pushed me harder in practice and (made me) try harder in meets,” Larson said.
“He always pushed me to be faster.”
As a freshman, Larson was 10th in the 100 breaststroke at WPIALs.
He claimed the 200 IM this year with a time of 1:51.41, more than two seconds faster than runner-up Zachary Buerger, a junior from North Allegheny.
“At the turns, I try to get a glance (at where other swimmers are), but other than that, I am focused on my lane, trying to keep my stroke together and have a good kick, trying to go fast,” Larson said.
Last year, Larson switched things up and swam the 200 freestyle at WPIALs. He placed sixth.
He took fourth in the 200 IM as a sophomore and ninth in the event as a freshman.
Larson isn't the only Penn Hills swimmer who will compete at states.
Indians senior Marissa Frollo is seeded 18th in the girls 50 freestyle. She placed eighth in a strong field of swimmers at WPIALs with a time of 24.37.
Eleven of the 32 spots in the girls 50 freestyle at the PIAA meet are occupied by WPIAL swimmers.
The top eight finishers in each individual and relay event at WPIALs earned medals. Penn Hills freshman Norman Gregory placed eighth in the boys 100 freestyle with a time of 48.27.
The boys 200 freestyle relay team of Larson, Gregory, senior Bobby Fello and sophomore Chris Fenglietto also earned a medal. The quartet placed eighth with a time of 1:28.68.
The same four swimmers brought home an eighth-place medal in the boys 400 freestyle relay with a time of 3:15.61.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at email@example.com.