Oakland Catholic swimmer commits to Virginia
By Keith Barnes
Published: Monday, Oct. 8, 2012,
Less than two seconds was all that separated Leah Smith from a spot on the U.S. Olympic swimming team that competed in London.
What bothers the Oakland Catholic senior the most is that in the qualifying preliminary trials, she didn't swim to her potential. It was especially significant when just a month later in the Pan Pacific Games, she swam 1 minute, 58.56 seconds in the 200-meter freestyle — a time that would have put her in the final heat in Omaha, Neb. by 0.08 seconds.
“It was a really cool experience, but I wasn't really happy with my performance because I didn't get my best times,” Smith said. “I just kept thinking, what if I had been in that final, then I could have been in London, but I don't think it's smart to dwell on what could have been.”
Smith, a Mt. Lebanon resident, instead moved forward, looked to her future and took a lot more than two seconds to make her collegiate choice. After sifting through offers from several universities, including California, Texas, Georgia and USC, she made the decision to commit to Virginia.
“I took an unofficial visit there in July, and I really liked it then, but I wanted to go and take all of my official visits,” Smith said. “I had a really great connection with all of the girls, I really liked the coaches and the school and one of my former club teammates, Pat Mellors, went there, and he did amazing. I'm really confident I'll do well there, too.”
Before Smith makes her move to Charlottesville, she will finish her senior year at Oakland Catholic and likely compete in the WPIAL and PIAA finals. She took off her junior year to train for the Olympics, so instead of London, she will have the goals of Pitt's Trees Pool and Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium in her sights.
In her previous appearance in the PIAA finals in 2011, Smith not only won the 500-yard freestyle, she set a Class AAA state record with a time of 4:39.96. She also finished third in the 200-yard freestyle in 2011. As a freshman, she competed in Class AA and finished second in the 200 and 500 freestyle events.
Now, Smith has proven herself to be a world-class swimmer, so the bar has been raised significantly. When she hits the pool this year, she will do so with the 20th best time in the world in the 400 meters (4:07.10) and the 22nd fastest in the 800 (8:28.01), an event that is not contended for at the high school level in Pennsylvania.
“I made the Pacific championships in Hawaii in August, and I was so happy because that was such an amazing experience,” Smith said. “Coming back to Oakland, I know now that I can do my best to help my team, and I'm really excited for it.”
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-664-9161 ext. 1977.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Enough of these Steelers already
- Penguins’ Orpik out; Neal to have phone hearing
- Penguins players are not out looking for fights
- Steelers WR Brown says ‘I thought I had it clean’ after wild, near-miss finish
- Greensburg man dies after multi-vehicle crash on Route 22
- Cranberry woman wins Miss Pennsylvania USA pageant
- Likely loss of Steelers draft pick looms because of Tomlin misstep
- CMU grad, hiking accident survivor Ralston arrested in Colorado
- Steelers’ NFL playoff hopes are all but gone in loss to Dolphins
- Western Pa. counties weigh shale gas drilling on public land
- Fatal crash on Bigelow Blvd. kills Mt. Washington woman