Swimming in success

| Monday, April 13, 2009

Southmoreland High School junior Matt Ramey has been swimming since he was 5 after deciding that it would be more fun swimming every night than to sit and watch his sisters swim every night.

It was then that Ramey found out how much fun swimming can be and took up a spot on the Laurel Highlands Regional YMCA swim team, which he has been part of for the past 11 years.

Today, Ramey is a definite success story.

He is a YMCA district champion in multiple events, a top-16 finisher at last year's long course YMCA national championships, which gives him YMCA All-American status, and he's been a part of the national qualifiers team at the Laurel Highlands Regional YMCA since he was 14.

His personal success so far this year is not too shabby, either.

On Feb 26-27 at the WPIAL competition, Ramey placed second in the 200 freestyle with a personal best time, and fourth in the 500 freestyle.

That was just his first of five major meets in recent weeks.

Ramey added two state medals while representing Southmoreland High School at the PIAA Championships at Bucknell University.

He swam a 4:41.42 to finish fifth in the 500-yard freestyle, his personal best finish in a state meet, and was sixth in the 200 freestyle.

After the PIAA meet, Ramey competed in the Pennsylvania YMCA State Meet at Penn State in late March. At the Pennsylvania YMCA State Meet, Ramey placed sixth in the 500 freestyle and seventh in the 100 freestyle. Earlier this month, Ramey traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the YMCA National Competition. While in Florida for the nationals, he placed 17th in the 1,000 (9:38.77) freestyle, and he bettered his 1,650 freestyle time (16:20.54) by 20 seconds, which was good enough to set a new team record. He finished 29th overall.

"I love the competition," Ramey said. "Swimming is very competitive, and yet at the same time, the athletes have a great amount of respect for each other. Everyday swimmers, well at least swimmers on a higher level, sacrifice much of their social life to be at practice because swimming requires a lot of your free time in order to maintain and continue to get better."

His coach, ironically named Laurel Highlands, has been coaching him since the beginning of his swimming career and said she is not surprised with Ramey's success.

"I saw at an early age that Matt had a lot of talent, and I was patient and allowed him to find his own success and develop the love of the sport," Highlands said. "It works much better if the athlete wants to do it and is not forced to do it. Matt also has terrific parents who support him unconditionally. They do not push him, they do not place expectations upon him, and they love him because he is their son not because he is a great swimmer."

Highlands added that Ramey has a great kick, technique and work ethic.

"He also has a great passion for the sport and a lot of respect for me and his team," she said. "He shows up to practice every day and works very hard. He has great dedication to the sport."

Ramey said he hopes to be a YMCA national champion someday, and maybe, if he's very lucky, make the qualifying standards to compete at the Olympic trials.

In the more immediate future, he hopes to continue his swimming career at an NCAA Division I college after he graduates.

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