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Geibel swimmers succeed without a team

| Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, 7:47 p.m.
Geibel swimmers (from left) Steve Conko, Emily Zimcosky and John Paul Zimcosky have earned WPIAL-qualifying times, despite the fact that Geibel does not have a swim team. Jason Black/Daily Courier

Although Geibel doesn't have a swim team, the school certainly isn't lacking for talented swimmers.

This year, three Geibel students are representing their school by competing with the Connellsville High School team in select meets. Freshmen Emily Zimcosky and Steve Conko, as well as junior John Paul Zimcosky, are not only competing in the sport, they are excelling.

The Geibel trio took part in Connellsville's meet against Uniontown last week, and each hit WPIAL-qualifying marks in two events.

John Paul Zimcosky hit qualifying standards in the 50 freestyle (22.71) and the 200 freestyle (1:51.80). He's thrilled to be able to swim at the high school level and to represent the Gators, even if it is with another team.

“I feel really proud to represent my school because a lot of people don't recognize swimming as a sport,” Zimcosky said. “It is competitive, and we have a lot of school pride.”

Zimcosky added that even though he doesn't attend Connellsville, the swimmers there have been welcoming.

“They accepted us because we've practiced with them and we know most of them because we swim with them on the (Laurel Highlands Regional) YMCA swim team,” Zimcosky said.

All three swimmers have shown extreme dedication. They each spend approximately 18 hours a week training and swimming for their YMCA team. That has helped prepare them for competition at the high school level. It also has allowed them to adapt to the strange circumstances of swimming with one school while representing another.

“It's unusual, but if you love something, you do what you need to do,” Conko said.

Conko has qualified for WPIALs in the 200 individual medley (2:02) and the 100 backstroke (55.77). His best event may be the 100 butterfly, but he hasn't competed in it yet. Compared to the Zimcosky siblings, Conko got a late start in the sport.

“I started when I was 9 years old,” Conko said. “I played basketball and baseball, but then I found I was pretty good at swimming, and it grew on me.”

Conko noted that representing his school is great, and it's special considering that he has several Geibel classmates sharing the same experiences.

“It makes it so much better because they are some of my best friends in the world,” Conko said.

For Emily Zimcosky, the opportunity to compete in high school events is something she is thankful to have. She has made the most of her opportunity by posting WPIAL qualifying marks in the 200 individual medley (2:14.56) and the 100 freestyle (52.49).

“I really enjoy it,” Zimcosky said. “Swimming is a big part of my life, and I like the competition.”

All three swimmers have high goals for this season and beyond, and it's that type of determination that keeps each of them focused.

“I have days where I feel like I don't want to get in (the pool),” Emily Zimcosky said. “But I just look at the bigger picture.”

The big picture for the Geibel trio includes improving on times, doing well at WPIALs and possibly making a splash at states later this season.

“When you see a time that you are trying for, you know all the hard work paid off,” Conko said. “It's a really nice feeling.”

Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-626-3534.

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