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Beley hopes to return to individual medals podium at WPIALs

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Michael Love | The Times Express
One of the largest contingent of Gateway swimmers takes to the pool in individual and relay events at the WPIAL Class AAA championships Thursday and Friday, Feb. 27 and 28, at Pitt’s Trees Pool. The top eight finishers in each event earn medals, and the top three qualify automatically for the PIAA championships at Bucknell University. Representing Gateway are, in front from left, Sarah Sheldon, Val Pascoe, Abbey Kimicata, Sydney Mandella, Kylie Hagerich, Samantha Mears and Erin Rozeck. In row two are Sean O’Donnell, Jake Beley, Michael Klonicki, Sam Passalinqua, Jake Passalinqua, Ian Kirkpatrick and Bryan Patrick Farren. In back are Alex Coutsoumbis, Mitchell Wohlfarth, Alex Bolen and Alex Caprara.

Gateway senior Jake Beley isn't sure if he'll swim in college.

With that in mind, he's approaching his final appearance in the WPIAL swimming championships differently than in past years.

“I'm probably much more focused,” said Beley.

“I definitely want to end it strong and hopefully make states.”

This week's WPIAL meet at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool is one last chance for Beley to add to his collection of WPIAL medals.

In three years, Beley has brought home five medals — four in relays and one in an individual event.

Beley won his lone individual medal as a sophomore in 2012, finishing fourth in the 100-yard butterfly.

He came close again last year but just missed in the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke, placing ninth in both events, one spot from earning a place on the medal stand.

The top eight in each event get a medal, and the top three are automatic state qualifiers.

Additional qualifiers are selected by the PIAA based on times recorded at district or regional events.

“I was so close last year in the fly. I was like a tenth of a second off from qualifying,” Beley said.

Thursday's WPIAL meet schedule includes boys and girls races in Class AA and AAA in the following events: 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50 free, 100 butterfly and 200 free relay.

Friday will feature the 100 free, 500 free, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 400 free relay.

Gateway competes in Class AAA.

Timed finals both days will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Beley is seeded 10th in the 100 backstroke and 14th in the 100 butterfly. He'll also swim in the Gators' 200 free relay and do the backstroke in the 200 medley relay.

“I'm in good heats right now, and I'm excited to see what I can pull off at WPIALs,” said Beley. “Both relays have a real good chance at states, but I'm most excited for the medley relay.”

Belay, who has dropped time in the butterfly and backstroke each year at WPIALs, feels he's mentally and physically stronger this time.

“I feel like I put in the work,” he said.

“I upped my dry land routine and my training routine. I'm hoping it all pays off at WPIALs.”

Beley is a team captain along with fellow senior Alex Caprara.

He believes the Gators can improve on last year's sixth-place finish.

“This is the largest group of swimmers we've sent in my four years, and I feel like it's the strongest group, too,” he said.

“I think, as a team, it will probably be our best finish.”

Dave Schrecengost is a freelance writer.

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