Shaler swimmers are pushing toward the postseason

Jerry Clark
| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Shaler swimming coach Keith Simmons has been pleased with the effort he has seen from his team as of late. It's not just the progress he sees but the extra effort everyone seems to be giving.

“We just finished a meet against Woodland Hills and found out the school had called for a two-hour delay for the next morning,” Simmons said. “The kids wanted to stay in the pool. They got in an extra 3,000 yards.

“These kids are 100 percent committed.”

Simmons' girls squad is led by Anita Peduto, an experienced swimmer in a squad largely made up on freshmen.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I expect a lot from myself,” Peduto said. “I am trying to get better than I was last year. I have improved, especially on my off strokes.”

Peduto said her butterfly is better, and she is close to her WPIAL cut in the freestyle. She already has earned her spot in the 200 IM, the 100 backstroke and the 400 free relay.

“The 100 back is my best event,” she said.

Being the most experienced swimmer on the girls side, Peduto tries to advise the younger swimmers by stressing hard work.

“I remind them that they can make a cut at any time, so keep working hard to get there,” Peduto said.

Nate Burwell may have been a late starter (only six years of organized swimming), but he has made a name for himself in the 100 breaststroke.

“It is the only stroke I am good at. I just feel like that is my event,” Burwell said.

Burwell said he focuses a good bit on the mental aspect of swimming. He imagines himself going through the motions and said that is a helpful way to prepare himself.

Burwell already has his WPIAL cuts in the breast stroke and medley relay.

“ I am pretty ecstatic to be going back down to Pitt. The last time I went, I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest,” he said. “We have a strong group here, and I feel like we feed off each other's energy.”

Billy Schmelzer is the third of Simmons' captains, and he already has WPIAL cuts in the 200 medley relay and the 400 free relay.

“The 200 medley relay is my favorite event,” he said. “The important thing in the distance races is to keep your focus and not worry about getting tired.”

Schmelzer said the team has done well at the section meets, and he has improved his butterfly stroke and credits the countless hours of work he has put in.

“Every practice we all work hard; no matter what our competitive stroke is, we try to get the most out of it,” he said. “You have to be focused once you get on the blocks.”

Schmelzer said that the present is promising, but the future is equally as bright with the young swimmers getting better each time out.

“They boys have more cuts than they have in prior years,” Simmons said. “We still have a shot to get four or five more kids making their cuts. We have different boys on different teams.

“We had 18 or 19 personal-best times against Moon earlier in the season.”

Simmons added that this trio of captains is the best he has had in recent memory.

Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or

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