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Gators focused on being in best position in time for WPIALs

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
(c) 2012 Aaron Loughner
Gateway junior Alex Caprara cuts through the water during a dual meet with Allderdice on Jan. 3, 2013. Aaron Loughner | For The Times Express

Gateway senior Drew Nosbisch and Penn Hills senior Gabe Larson finished tied for second in the boys 100 breaststroke at last year's WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool.

“We tied last year, and we don't want to do that again,” Nosbisch said.

Gators junior Alex Caprara added a fourth-place finish in the event. The top seven in the standings cracked the 59-second mark.

On Thursday, Gateway swims against Penn Hills at 6 p.m. at Penn Hills HighSchool, and although the lane assignments weren't finalized as of Tuesday's deadline for this week's edition, there is a chance the trio of 2012 WPIAL place winners will find themselves in the same 100 breast race.

For Nosbisch and Caprara, it will be nice to get another in-person look at their rival. Swimmers at the top in each of the eight individual events know that rankings are interesting to look at now, but rankings won't matter when they try to make a splash at WPIALs and fight for medals and championships.

“This is the heat of the season, so our bodies are broken down the most,” Nosbisch said. “We start to gauge ourselves against the others at the top of the lists to see where we are. As soon as we start tapering (lowering mileage in the water), we know we will be able to go even faster. It's a pretty big deal if we're near the top now, but a lot can happen between now and WPIALs and at WPIALS itself.”

Nosbisch, Caprara and Larson also faced each other at a Christmas meet for their club teams.

“We're each other's biggest competition and are good friends,” Nosbisch said. “We were all tapered and shaved down for the Christmas meet, and that was our midseason gauge for us. We know where we're at. In high school when we're broken down, if we're getting close to those (Christmas) times now, that is great. That is a boost for us who are looking for time drops at WPIALs and states and high placements. We want to show what we can do.”

Nosbisch said things can change so much from year to year, and past WPIAL performances don't always spell out a repeat result.

“One year, a defending WPIAL champion came back and finished 10th in the same event,” Nosbisch said. “People train and get more motivated. They hit the weight room and get their (in-pool) technique down. That's all in the course of a couple of months. Anything can happen. A new freshman swimmer always can come up and surprise a lot of people.”

Gateway head coach Jason Kunkle said Nosbisch and Caprara both are in the top five in the breaststroke for WPIAL Class AAA.

“It's nice to see where they fit in among the rest of the WPIAL qualifiers,” Kunkle said. “I don't think they get too bent out of shape about it if they are ranked lower than someone else. What we really look for is where that time will place us for WPIALs and trying to be in the best position possible. It's a matter of trying to better a seed time so we can move up into a faster heat or being confident with where we are positioned.”

Kunkle said that he tries to keep his swimmers loose and relaxed heading to WPIALs.

“If we drop time and we swim our best, no matter what heat or what lane we are in, it will pay off in the end,” Kunkle said.

Kunkle said he does look at rankings concerning strategies for WPIALs, including who fits the best in a certain individual event and how that translates into the lineups for the relays.

Gateway qualified three more for the WPIAL championships last week against Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Oakland Catholic.

Junior Jake Beley qualified in the 50 free.

“Jake has qualified for a bunch (of events), but that has been his elusive goal for a while,” Kunkle said.

“He did it at the beginning of a relay. That was nice to see.”

Senior diver A.J. Denne also reached her qualifying goal.

“A.J. joined the team for the first time this season, and she has progressed very quickly,” Kunkle said.

“(Diving coach) Mehran (Hedjazi) has done a great job with her. She is just very dedicated.”

Nosbisch completed his qualifying sweep of the eight individual events, as he qualified in the 500 free.

“It's nice to have a variety of events to focus on,” Kunkle said. “It takes away a little of the stress. Sometimes, they get focused on one particular event and one particular time, and that can create a stressful situation. A lot of the qualifiers see how many events they can qualify in. Some try for as many events as possible. I am a firm believer that doing well in all events is going to make you a more well-rounded swimmer, and that will also pay off in your key events at WPIALs.”

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at

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