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Penn Hills senior swimmer competing in every event at WPIAL championships

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 4:57 p.m.
Penn Hills Progress
Gabe Larson prepares for the breaststroke competition at the 2012 WPIAL Championships at Trees Pool on the University of Pittsburgh campus. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Gabe Larson could be the most worn-out swimmer at the WPIAL championships, when all is said and done. But thanks to a dedicated training regimen, he probably won't be.

For the fourth year in a row, Larson, 17, a senior at Penn Hills High School, has qualified for all eight individual events and all three relay events with his teammates.

Larson began swimming competitively at age 5, and by 9 he was part of USA Swimming's Penn Hills Dolphins Swim Club.

The WPIAL championships are under way today at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool in Oakland. Larson tied for second in the 100-meter breaststroke and earned sixth place in the 200-meter freestyle last year.

He also had two top-10 finishes in the same events at the PIAA state championships.

Larson spoke with the Progress recently about preparing for a hard afternoon of swimming:

Q: What first got you interested in swimming competitively?

A: I have liked jumping into the water as long as I can remember, and my older brothers were already swimming, so it kind of just happened.

Q: Out of all your events, do you have a favorite?

A: The 100-meter breaststroke, because I found that I was good at it, and I have continued to improve. And the 200-meter individual medley, because it challenges me in all of the strokes.

Q: Is there a particular event where you've had more success, and why?

A: The 100-meter breast; I've worked the hardest on that stroke since I realized that I had a chance to excel in it.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge so far this season?

A: Working on my backstroke. It has always been my worst stroke, but I wanted to improve my 200-meter individual medley time and break the Penn Hills record in the 100-meter backstroke.

Q: This is the fourth year in a row in which you've qualified for all eight individual events and all three team events at the WPIALs. What's the secret to that sustained success?

A: I set difficult goals for myself, and I have coaches that push me to reach those goals year-round.

Q: How often do you train each week and for how long?

A: A typical week is a two-hour high school practice Monday through Friday, followed by a one- to two-hour club practice depending on how tired I am. Saturday mornings we practice about two and a half hours.

Q: What have you enjoyed most about this swimming season?

A: Breaking the school record in the 100-meter backstroke earlier in the season and helping my team break the school record in the 200-meter medley relay on senior night.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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