Chartiers Valley sophomore Damich making a splash

Drew Damich finished in first in both the 200 and 500-yard freestyle races at the WPIAL swimming and diving championships.
Drew Damich finished in first in both the 200 and 500-yard freestyle races at the WPIAL swimming and diving championships.
Photo by Submitted | for the Signal Item
Nathan Smith
| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

For some athletes, reaching the WPIAL swimming and diving championships can be a nerve-racking experience.

For Chartiers Valley's Drew Damich, it was business as usual.

The Chartiers Valley sophomore had a big day at the Class AA championships, winning the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1 minute, 43.30 seconds and the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:40.87.

It was the second straight year Damich qualified for the PIAA championships.

“I was a lot more confident going into my races,” Damich said. “Last year, I didn't have that confidence. I wasn't used to the atmosphere. This year was different.”

Damich not only won the races but also knocked off defending WPIAL champions. He defeated defending 200-yard freestyle champ Alex Szakelyhidi of Riverside by 2.20 seconds. He then defeated defending 500 freestyle champion Jarod Kehl of Montour, who finished 5.50 seconds behind Damich.

In addition to winning his solo races, Damich had a strong showing with the relay team, which also featured junior Paul Novelli and sophomores Michael Schmidt and Joshua Rosato.

The relay team finished second in the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:30.54 — less than a second behind first-place Shady Side Academy — and fourth in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:21.83.

“We all try to challenge each other,” Damich said. “We will definitely be back next season ready to win it. We are going to try and go to states and try to beat the team who finished above us.”

It was the team's first season of competition at the WPIAL Class AA championships. The Colts dropped down from Class AAA last season. While there may have been more competition in the higher classification, Damich said his opponents were tough.

“There was definitely a lot more competition in Class AAA,” Damich said. “But (Class) AA has a lot of good talent, too.”

Damich will use his experience from last season's PIAA championships to his advantage. He reached the event as a freshman and competed in the 200-yard freestyle, finishing in 15th with a time of 1:43.35

The sophomore said one of the bigger challenges of states is getting used to the bulkhead. Unlike at WPIALs, where the bulkhead — which separates the practice and competition lanes — runs parallel to the lanes, swimmers must swim at the bulkhead at states.

“I like to see where the bottom of the pool meets the wall in my turns,” Damich said. “The bulk doesn't touch the bottom but moves above it. I can't base it going into my turns.”

Damich's goals are in his sights: In addition to adding to his list of accomplishments, the sophomore hopes to break 1:40 in the 200-yard and 4:30 in the 500.

“Coming into the year, I wanted to win WPIALs and states,” Damich said. “I am within reach of my goals. I didn't reach the times I wanted. Hopefully I can do it at states.”

Damich is seeded second in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races, behind Fleetwood junior Matthew Leenhouts. The relay team is seeded ninth in the 200-yard freestyle relay and 21st in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

The PIAA Class AA championships were held Wednesday and today, Thursday, at Bucknell University.

Results were unavailable at press time.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-388-5813.

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