Gators relays and individuals punch tickets to states
Gateway senior Drew Nosbisch has had a decorated WPIAL career with several individual and relay medals to his credit.
He wanted to add gold in his final individual race at WPIALs, as he went head-to-head with rival Gabe Larson, a senior from Penn Hills; teammate Alex Caprara, a junior; and top seeded Casey Melzer, a sophomore from North Allegheny; in what was expected to be a highly competitive boys 100 breaststroke event Friday afternoon at the WPIAL Class AAA championships.
Competitive is what everyone got, as Larson came out on top with a time of 56.73.
Larson and Nosbisch tied for second last year, and Nosbisch was the runner-up again Friday, as he swam to a time of 57.38.
Peters Township senior Chris Buzard took third (57.65), while Caprara came in fourth (57.80) and Melzer was fifth.
The top eight finishers in each individual and relay event at WPIALs earned medals, and the top eight in the boys 100 breast finished with times below one minute and qualified for states.
“I felt really good in that race,” Nosbisch said.
“I am pretty sure everyone did. That was just awesome to see everyone that was on the (medals) podium swim that fast. I wasn't really concerned with getting first or second. I just wanted to swim my best time, which I did by a second. Gabe was happy because he didn't want a tie again. I didn't want a tie either. It was a great race.”
Luke Nosbisch, a Pitt sophomore, an Olympic Trials qualifier and Drew's older brother, won back-to-back WPIAL titles in the 100 breast in 2010 and 2011 and set the WPIAL record (56.37) in 2011. In 2010, Drew Nosbisch finished 23rd, and in 2011, he earned a medal for placing eighth.
Caprara's 57.80 was a personal best, and he earned his third straight WPIAL medal in the event.
He also placed fourth in the 100 breast last year as a sophomore, and he bested Drew Nosbisch by one place finish in 2011. That year, as a freshman, Caprara earned a seventh-place medal in the event.
Larson is the top seed in the 100 breast for the PIAA AAA championship meet, set for March 15 and 16 at Bucknell University.
Nosbisch is seeded third, while Caprara is the eighth seed.
Caprara is seeded higher than nine automatic qualifiers from other districts in the state.
The top three finishers in each individual or relay event at WPIALs automatically qualified for states, and others whose time was fast enough were selected as the PIAA completed its entry lists.
Nosbisch also will swim at states in the 100 fly after he placed third in the event at WPIALs with a time of 51.34. He is seeded 12th in the event at states.
Caprara ascended to the medals podium in the 200 IM, as he took sixth in a time of 1:58.16.
He will be seeded 24th in the 200 IM at the PIAA meet.
Nosbisch and Caprara also found success in the two free relays, as they teamed with juniors Jake Beley and Alex Bolen to earn medals and qualify for states.
With Bolen as the anchor, the quartet placed fifth in the 200 free relay with a time of 1:27.60.
They went into the event seeded 14th and were faster than four teams in the final heat.
The Gateway 200 free relay will be seeded 16th at states.
“It feels really good because we've all been working really hard,” Bolen said.
“To go from 14th to fifth is really impressive considering all the talented teams in the WPIAL. We all dropped time and swam well together. It felt really good.”
Nosbisch, Caprara, Beley and Bolen came back on day two and dropped exactly 10 seconds from their seed time in the 400 free relay. Their time of 3:12.98 took them from the ninth seed to a fourth-place finish.
The team will enter the state meet seeded 18th.
“The relays knew that being in the second heat from the last, they had to post a top time to have a chance at a medal and a shot at states,” Gateway head coach Jason Kunkle said.
“But they were confident. They knew how they had been swimming all year.”
Beley swam two events individually, and he came very close to earning a medal in the 100 fly.
He finished ninth in the event with a time of 53.19 and was 18 one-hundredths of a second away from a medal.
Beley also finished one spot out of a medal in the 100 backstroke, as he took ninth with a time of 54.10.
He shaved more than two seconds off his seed time of 56.52.
“We have to refocus to extend our season as long as possible at states, just like we refocused after winning the (boys) section title and got prepared for WPIALs,” Kunkle said.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.