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Penn Hills' brothers' healthy rivalry helps propel swimming performances

Patrick Varine | Penn Hills Progress
From the left, the Gregory brothers — sophomore Norman, 16, freshman Isaiah, 14, and seventh-grader Kimani, 11 — pose for a photo at the Highland Park Pool. Isaiah and Kimani set new records over Memorial Day weekend at the National Black Heritage Swim Meet in North Carolina.

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The Gregory brothers caught swimming coach Hosea Holder's attention quickly when he first encountered them about six years ago.

“They had the ability to take instructions and execute them, and maintain the techniques that we've taught them,” said Holder, head coach for the Pittsburgh Stingrays and a swimming coach for nearly 50 years.

“There's a competitive spirit between the three of them that makes it very easy for coaches,” he said.

That spirit is not tough to see.

As the brothers — high-school sophomore Norman, 16; freshman Isaiah, 14; and seventh-grader Kimani, 11 — answer questions about their most recent swim meet, they can't help jabbing one another.

When Kimani claims to have set a particular record at the meet, Isaiah quickly jumps in.

“No you didn't! You didn't live up to the hype!” he said.

Both Isaiah and Kimani did set records at the 11th annual National Black Heritage Swim Meet, which took place over Memorial Day weekend: Isaiah in the 100-meter breast-stroke, with a time of 103:89, and Kimani in the 100-meter freestyle, where he posted a time of 53:52.

The boys' father, Norman, serves as an assistant coach under Holder, and will work with his sons as they begin preparations for USA Swimming sectional competition and try to earn a spot on the Eastern Zone Swimming All-Star team.

Over the summer, the boys attend Stingray practice at the Highland Park Pool on Lake Drive in Pittsburgh, working from 8:30 to 11 a.m. on weekdays.

They said the relaxed, quiet atmosphere at the pool makes practice go by more quickly.

“I love the weather,” Isaiah said.

“Plus we get (practice) done with in the morning,” Norman chimed in.

Holder said he hopes the brothers will serve as an inspiration to other youths considering swimming as a sport.

He offers anyone interested in Stingray swimming a free lesson to show them how the team practices operate and to hopefully build its ranks.

There are 23 swimmers on the team, and Holder would like to see that number rise to about 75.

“Everything we do is geared toward swimmers achieving their goals,” he said.

Those goals are in sight for the Gregorys.

Last year, Isaiah came up one short of holding every Linton Middle School swimming record. The record he did not break is held by his older brother.

Of course, Kimani was quick to speak up when asked if he's coming after those records.

“Definitely,” he said.

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

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