Large Gateway swim contingent gearing up for WPIALs
Gateway freshman Mitchell Wohlfarth tried as best he could over the last several weeks of the regular season to qualify for WPIALs in the 100 breaststroke.
The qualifying standard in the event is 1:07.00.
In the regular-season and section finale against McKeesport, Wohlfarth swam to a time of 1:07.02, just barely missing the cut needed to qualify.
But in a last-chance meet Saturday at North Allegheny, he made the time he needed and joined the group of Gators individual qualifiers.
“Mitchell crushed (the time),” Gateway head coach Jason Kunkle said.
Now, with the list of Gators individual and team qualifiers compete, preparation kicks into high gear for the WPIAL AAA swim championships, set for Feb. 28 and March 1 at Pitt's Trees Pool.
“As soon as the McKeesport meet ended, we had to shift our focus from team to the individuals and relays for WPIALs,” Kunkle said.
“We've done this before and we have a lot of experience coming back from WPIALs (in previous seasons), so I don't expect any issues. Everyone is going to be very focused on preparations from working on small aspects of their swims to getting the proper rest.”
Gateway has an experienced group of swimmers returning to WPIALs.
Seniors Drew Nosbisch, Kenny Stevens and Ray Doerfler, as well as juniors Alex Caprara and Jake Beley, stood on the medals podium at last year's WPIAL meet, and all five swam at states.
Nosbisch came close to taking home the boys 100 breast title, as he finished tied for second.
Sophomore Sarah Sheldon and junior Ian Kirkpatrick return to WPIALs in individual events.
Sheldon will swim the 100 back on March 1, while Kirkpatrick will swim the 100 breast the same day.
The AAA meet will be from 3 to 5:30 p.m. on both Feb. 28 and March 1.
Swimmers will compete in the 200 medley relay, the 200 free, the 200 IM, the 50 free, the 100 fly and the 200 free relay on Feb. 28 and the 100 free, 500 free, 100 back, 100 breast and 400 free relay on March 1.
The top three finishers in each individual and relay event at WPIALs automatically qualify for the PIAA championships at Bucknell University from March 13 to 16.
Also, any individual or relay placing fourth through eight will be in the running for the additional spots for states.
Junior Alex Bolen — who qualified in four events — junior Sean O'Donnell (100 fly) and sophomore Sydney Mandella (100 free) are new individual swimmers to WPIALs. All three swam only in relays last year.
O'Donnell qualified in the 100 fly at the Norwin meet on Feb. 12.
Gateway will have an entry in all six WPIAL relays. The four swimmers for each relay, Kunkle said, will be determined next week.
The Gateway boys team beat McKeesport last week to put a cap on a 7-0 season in Section 3-AAA and wrap up the school's first swimming section title since 2003.
The Gators finished 12-1 overall.
Coach Kunkle helped the Gateway boys win a section title as a swimmer in 1990, and the boys team also won section crowns in 1989, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 2002.
Helping the boys team take home the section title were Doerfler, Nosbisch, Beley, Bolen, Caprara, Kirkpatrick, Wohlfarth, and O'Donnell; as well as seniors Ben Sheldon and Zach Turi; juniors Collin Berdis, Jared Campbell, Alec Davis, Matt Limbacher and Mirjalol Tukhtamurodov; sophomores Alex Coutsoumbis, Joe Fisher, Noah Smith and Brad Vitt, as well as freshmen Bryan Patrick Farren and Jake Passalinqua.
“In the time I've been coaching here, we've had tons of WPIAL qualifiers, tons of state qualifiers and All-Americans, but the one thing that always seemed to be missing was that we weren't quite deep enough (for a section title),” Kunkle said.
“The younger swimmers stepped up, and some swimmers found themselves with opportunities to score in meets, where in previous years, they were in a nonscoring lane. Everybody stepped it up, from the freshmen to the seniors. They had a goal at the start of the season, and it created a special year.”
Kunkle said the swimmers with individual goals for WPIALs were very team-oriented.
“They all compete at the highest levels and have seen it all, and this has been exciting with team goals in mind,” Kunkle said.
The Gateway girls squad beat McKeesport and finished 7-6 overall and 5-2 in Section 3.
“For the girls team, we wanted to have our winning record in the section and overall,” Kunkle said.
“We spent the first half of the season swimming such tough competition that it would've been easy for the girls to get down on themselves. But the seniors were leaders and kept the girls optimistic. We rattled off a string of wins in January and February to bring it to a winning record.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.