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Gateway's Caprara, relays capture WPIAL medals

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Michael Love | The Times Express
The Gateway boys 200 medley relay earned a fourth-place medal at the WPIAL Class AAA swim championships Feb. 27, 2014, at Pitt’s Trees Pool. From left are Jake Beley, Alex Caprara, Jake Passalinqua and Alex Bolen. Caprara added individual medals in the 100 breast (second) and 200 IM (fourth), while Bolen qualified for states in the 50 free. Gators boys swimmers will head to states in four events.
Randy Jarosz | For The Times Express
Gateway senior Alex Bolen takes off from the block in his heat of the AAA boys 50 free at WPIALs on Feb. 27, 2014, at Pitt’s Trees Pool. Bolen just missed a medal as he finished ninth overall, but his time (21.89) was good enough to earn him a trip to states.

Gateway senior Alex Caprara is no stranger to the PIAA tournament.

He has gone to Bucknell University before in both relay and individual events.

Last year, Caprara swam in the final heat of the boys AAA 100 breast at states, and he placed seventh overall.

Next week, the Gators veteran competitor will take to the pool one final time in a high school event as he returns to the PIAA championships with three of his teammates.

“I never really thought about coming to the point with (states) being my last high school swim,” Caprara said.

“I've always been focused just on the next event. It's a crazy thing to think about that I will be moving on in six months with a new team.”

Caprara, a Denison University swim recruit, is seeded fourth at states in the boys 100 breast after finishing runner-up to North Allegheny junior Casey Meltzer at the WPIAL championships last Friday at Pitt's Trees Pool.

“Alex got his best time, and he's a competitor,” Kunkle said. “He's looking to win every race, and he's worked hard. We're looking forward to a great state meet to continue the momentum.”

Caprara finished with a time of 57.21 in the 100 breast, and Meltzer won the event with a time of 56.67.

“I was upset with my second 50 split,” Caprara said. “I had to swim the best I could, and that was the result.”

Despite finishing second, short of his goal of a WPIAL title, Caprara said he was happy for Meltzer.

“He's one of my closest friends, and I couldn't have asked for a better person to have won,” Caprara said.

“It made me happy to see we were able to finish like that. I think it was a joint effort, because we push each other so much.”

Caprara said he was trying to swim his best and wasn't trying to keep tabs on his Tigers competitor during the race.

“My second turn was towards (Meltzer), so I knew where he was, but my third turn was away from him, so I didn't know where he was in relation to me,” Caprara said.

“I just knew I had to drill it, and whatever happened happened.”

The Gators have built a strong tradition in the 100 breast, from WPIAL champion Luke Nosbisch to 2013 Gateway graduate Drew Nosbisch.

“(Senior) Ian Kirkpatrick and I have had some best swims and best times at WPIALs, and we want to pass that tradition along to (sophomore WPIAL 100 breast qualifier) Mitchell (Wohlfarth),” Caprara said.

“I've had some great role models in the 100 breast, and hopefully, I have been able to be a part of that for Mitchell and others. Over the next couple of years, hopefully, Mitchell will be able to do the same.”

The boys 200 medley relay of Caprara, fellow seniors Alex Bolen and Jake Beley and sophomore Jake Passalinqua finished fourth overall at WPIALs last Thursday, and the quartet set a new school record with a time of 1:36.71.

The time was nearly four seconds better than their seed time.

It also was easily good enough to meet the PIAA standards for a trip to states as a time qualifier.

“They swam fantastic,” Kunkle said.

“Both the boys and girls medleys swam great times and really got the ball rolling for us.”

The relay is seeded 12th at states.

“Mid way through the season, we thought the medley relay had a chance to really do well at WPIALs,” Kunkle said.

“They went down there and performed well.”

Bolen has been to states in the past, but only on relays.

This year, he qualified individually with a strong performance in the 50 free.

Bolen finished second in the fourth of five heats with a time of 21.89, and he just missed a top-eight medal with a ninth-place finish.

Then, the waiting game began.

A total of 16 automatic qualifiers from around the state were set for the PIAA meet in the 50 free, and the PIAA also selected the next 16 top times to be included in the 32-swimmer field.

The list of extra names were released Sunday afternoon, and Bolen's name was on the list.

He is tied for the 30th seed out of 32.

“It was my No. 1 goal at the start of the season to go to states in an individual event,” Bolen said.

“I was sitting on my computer waiting for the PIAA to post the (time) qualifiers. It took a minute or two to set in. I am so excited.”

“We knew we were going to be close,” Kunkle said. “District 1 and District 3, two of the better districts in the state, didn't have as many people finish ahead of him as we had thought. Once we saw those results, we knew he would be right near that cut line.”

The boys 200 free relay of Caprara, Beley, Bolen and senior Sam Passalinqua earned sixth-place medal with a time of 1:28.68.

However, the final 200 free relay team to qualify for states on time, Wilson Area from District 1, had a time of 1:28.15.

“We were pleased with the time in the 200 free relay,” Kunkle said. “We weren't counting ourselves out (for states), but we knew it would be tough with finishing sixth at WPIALs.”

The top place finish on the Gateway girls side was the 200 free relay of seniors Abbey Kimicata and Kylie Hagerich and juniors Sydney Mandella and Sarah Sheldon.

The quartet placed 12th overall with a time of 1:42.22. It came in seeded 11th.

The 400 free relay of Hagerich, Mandella, Kimicata, and junior Samantha Mears swam seven seconds faster than their seed time and placed 14th overall with a time of 3:48.60.

The group came in seeded 14th.

The Gators girls 200 medley relay of senior Val Pascoe, Mandella, Sheldon and junior Erin Rozeck broke two minutes in placing 23rd with a time of 1:59.30.

Individually, Hagerich swam to a tie for 19th (25.07) in the 50 free, and she came in with a seed time tied for 21st (25.61).

“The girls had a high percentage of best times,” Kunkle said.

“They worked so hard during the season. They competed well and saw a lot of time drops. We also had a really positive and competitive season in section meets, so there is a lot of momentum heading into the offseason and preparing for next season.”

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825, at or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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