Gateway swimming will be well represented at WPIAL championships
Gateway swimming head coach Jonathan Moore competed at the WPIAL swim championships nearly two decades ago.
He hasn't witnessed a WPIAL finals in person since 2001 when he was a coach at Woodland Hills.
Moore said he's excited to be back at WPIALs and excited to guide what he considers a strong group of qualifiers.
Eighteen Gateway swimmers, including 11 first-time WPIAL competitors, will take to the pool Thursday and Froday at Pitt's Trees Pool, and Moore hopes to see several best times and a couple state qualifiers.
“Those numbers are what we were expecting at the start of the season,” Moore said.
“We had hoped to have a few more individuals qualify. A couple were close to adding a second individual event, while others were on the cusp of qualifying individually. If they had just one more meet, they probably would've got it.”
Heats in each event will run from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. both days.
The 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50 free, 100 free and 200 free relay will run Thursday. The 100 free, 500 free, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 400 free relay will run Friday.
The top three finishers in each individual and relay event qualify for the PIAA championships on March 15-18 at Bucknell University.
Those who finish in fourth through eighth will be on a provisional list with a chance to be selected for the state meet based on their WPIAL time.
“The kids are pretty loose and excited,” Moore said. “They are having fun. The seniors are excited for one more run.”
Freshman Olivia Livingston is poised to challenge for WPIAL titles in both the 50 free and 100 free. She is seeded second in both events.
She is in a virtual tie with Fox Chapel's Jossie Filo, a junior from Fox Chapel, for the best seed in the 50 free. Filo checks in at 23.75, while Livingston is at 23.76.
Livingston edged Filo in the event during Gateway and Fox Chapel's dual meet in January.
In the 100 free, Livingston is seeded second (52.04) to North Allegheny senior Lauren McGrath (50.62).
Moore said Livingston has gone about a second faster than her seed time in a non-WPIAL meet.
“Olivia feels the pressure and knows the expectations are high,” Moore said. “But she's been on the big stage before at events for USA Swimming. The pressure and competition drives her. She enjoys the racing aspect.”
Moore said Jackson Perry, seeded 17th in the boys 200 IM, has a chance to make it to states with a strong swim. He also will compete individually in the 100 breast.
Zac Janocko is someone Moore said is seeking a trip to WPIALs with a top effort. Janocko is hoping to move into qualifying position in the 50 free where he is seeded 17th.
Janocko also is looking to make his mark in the 100 free (17th seed).
Moore feels the boys and girls 200 free relays have a chance to grab one of the state-qualifying spots from the WPIAL. The girls are seeded 14th, and the boys are the 15th seed.
Also swimming individually at WPIALs are Savannah Plaskon (100 free, 100 breast), Michael Holmes (100 free, 100 back) and David MacMurchy (100 back).
Despite not making it in an individual event, Conor Farren, Nick Pietrusinski, Luek DiPalma, Chloe Neely, Paige Bernardi, Kyrie Bernardi, Makayla Harris, Sydney Perry, Jessica Stroh, Nathan Gabriel, Marcelo Pomiecko and Amanda Pugliano are competitors in the boys and girls 200 medley, 200 free and 400 free relays.
Moore said he was impressed with the group of six freshmen — Livingston, Paige Bernardi, Gabriel, Harris, Perry and Stroh — who will make their WPIAL debuts.
“I was proud of their efforts all season,” Moore said. “Their hard work paid off, and they really pushed the upperclassmen.
“The whole team gelled throughout the season and worked towards common goals. The kids got really pumped for the Fox Chapel and Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Oakland Catholic meets (in early February). We had numerous qualifying times met in the meets.
Senior Jonathan Gable and junior Jacob Mears had the experience of diving at the WPIAL Class AAA boys championships at North Allegheny High School.
Gable placed 26th with a point total of 121.35. Places 21 to 26 were separated by only five points.
Mears finished 29th with a total of 115.15 points.
The top five finishers qualified for the PIAA championships at Bucknell University on March 18th. Fox Chapel sophomore Jonah Cagley took home the title with a total of 525.20 points, while Franklin Regional sophomore Mason Fishell was fifth with 413.85 points.