Gateway swimmers and divers anxious to get season started
After months of offseason workouts in the pool and with dry-land exercises and countless laps during several weeks of preseason practices, the Gateway varsity boys and girls swim teams are putting final preparations together for next week's season-opening meets.
Head coach Jason Kun- kle said he hopes to see many positives come out of the Gators' three December meets, including a fast start with numerous WPIAL-qualifying swims.
Gateway hosts Hempfield on Tuesday and Penn-Trafford on Dec. 13, and the Gators will swim at Franklin Regional on Dec. 18. All three meets are set for 6 p.m. starts.
“The beginning part of the season is always the hardest because we're trying to establish a base, and there's all this training and no meets,” Kunkle said.
“Now, we're excited for next week and the week after. We have three big teams we are swimming. They will be enjoyable meets against friendly rivals, but they will be very fast because we know we are going up against some great competition.”
The Gateway boys team returns eight swimmers who competed at WPIALs last year, including state qualifiers and All-Americans in senior Drew Nosbisch and junior Alex Caprara.
“I definitely sense a feeling of excitement,” Kunkle said. “The experience helps them. I think some of them who went to WPIALs just in a relay, now that they got to experience WPIALs, are ready to qualify individually.”
Nosbisch finished tied for second with fellow senior Gabriel Larson of Penn Hills in the 100 breast at WPIALs (58.56). He went on to swim in the consolation finals at states, and he ended 13th with a final swim of 58.71.
Nosbisch also swam at states in the 200 free after finishing eighth in the event at WPIALs (1:44.49).
He placed 16th at states (1:43.37).
“Drew's definitely focused, and his goals are set,” Kunkle said. “As long as he stays healthy, he's going to have a strong season.”
Caprara was seeded sixth in the 100 breast at WPIALs, and he moved up to finish fourth with a time of 58.90. The top seven swimmers had times under one minute.
At states, Caprara barely missed a spot in the consolation finals, as he placed 17th (59.16).
He also swam at states in the 200 IM after taking sixth at WPIALs (1:56.87).
“Alex has worked hard in the offseason, and he's very motivated to do well,” Kunkle said. “All the WPIAL people have come in at another level, and what we're able to accomplish at practice, the times they are hitting and the intervals they are making, are surpassing what they did last year.”
Junior Jake Beley is back after making his first trip to states last season. He finished fourth at WPIALs in the 100 fly (53:36).
Senior Ray Doerfler anchored the 200 free relay with Nosbisch, Caprara and Beley at WPIALs. The team came into WPIALs seeded 10th, and the quartet ended seventh in a time of 1:28.68 and earned a WPIAL medal.
Fellow senior Kenny Stevens anchored the 400 free relay with Nosbisch, Caprara and Beley at WPIALs. The relay came in seeded 10th and left WPIALs with a seventh-place medal in a time of 3:15.84.
Juniors Alex Bolen (200 medley relay), Sean O'Donnell (200 medley relay) and Ian Kirkpatrick (200 medley relay and 100 breast) also are back after competing at WPIALs last season.
Kunkle said he also has a small but strong boys freshman class that will be able to make an impact immediately.
On the girls side, multiyear WPIAL qualifier Joy Nosbisch was lost to graduation, as was 2012 graduate and WPIAL qualifier Julia Hancock.
Sophomores Sarah Sheldon and Sydney Mandella swam at WPIALs for the first time in March, and both are hoping to build on their first-year experiences.
They helped the 200 medley relay — with Nosbisch and Hancock — take 16th in a time of 1:57.50.
“Because of their success at WPIALs, both trained very hard in the offseason,” Kunkle said.
“They are definitely coming into the season with their goals set. They know they are only a couple of months away from putting together some great times.”
Also swimming at WPIALs in relays were junior Abbey Kimicata (200 free relay, 400 free relay) and sophomore Erin Rozeck (400 free relay).
“We're going to be fine with the versatility the girls swimmers are showing,” Kunkle said. “I couldn't be more proud of how hard everyone is working and the time they are putting in.”
Junior Alison Perry again will perform double duty as a swimmer and a diver for the Gateway girls.
Perry competed at the WPIAL diving championships for the first time last season, and she finished 18th in the AAA event.
“Alison put in a lot of time in both swimming and diving in the offseason,” Kunkle said. “She's really doing two sports full time at once. She really has committed herself to both teams.”
Junior Kylie Hagerich also returns and joins Perry on the diving board this season.
The girls team features only two seniors in Alyssa Greco and Katie Baran.
Greco missed all of last year because of an injury.
“Alyssa and Katie has kept the energy level going at practice and helped keep the girls focused,” Kunkle said. “With our two seniors leading the way, we should see some new success.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.