Chartiers Valley swimmers looking for PIAA success

Nathan Smith
| Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 4:21 p.m.

The Chartiers Valley boys freestyle relay team proved how much experience can matter at the WPIAL Class AA swimming and diving championships.

The foursome of juniors Drew Damich, Brody Schmidt, Josh Rosato and senior Paul Novelli dominated the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1 minute, 28.03 seconds. In the 400 freestyle relay, the Colts fell just short of finishing first with a time of 3:14.14. Mars won with a time of 3:13.72.

Both times broke Chartiers Valley records.

“I had pretty high expectations going into WPIALs,” Chartiers Valley coach Heidi Fiorentini said. “And they surpassed my expectations. They went in knowing what they needed to do individually as well as a team.

“I am so proud of them. They were incredible.”

Both of the team's times were improvements from a year ago when it finished second in the 200 with a time of 1:30.54 and fifth in the 400 with a time of 3:21.83.

Chartiers Valley finished third overall in the Class AA boys standings with 159 points, behind Mars (233) and Quaker Valley (170.5).

For the relay team, winning gold and silver were the results of a season of dedication. The Colts came into the season with momentum from last year and began work on improving their starts and finishes. The team also worked on its swimming order to improve its time.

What helped most of all was just the familiarity the swimmers had with one another.

“It was more natural,” Rosato said. “There weren't any jitters behind the block. You knew you were racing with guys who you have been swimming with for two years. We have become pretty close friends. It made us want to win more.”

In singles events, Damich won the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:42.51 and the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:35.88. The junior entered both events as the defending champion and showed considerable growth in both — he knocked nearly a second off in the 200 and nearly five seconds off in the 400 from his times at WPIALs in 2013.

Schmidt competed in the same races, finishing fifth in the 200 with a time of 1:46.85 and third in the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:46.75.

“I think he surprised himself with how well he did,” Fiorentini said. “The 200 and 500 were probably my favorite events because of how well both of them improved this season.”

While they are competing against each other, Damich and Schmidt agreed having a teammate in the same events has been beneficial.

“You strive to be as fast and as good as that other person,” Schmidt said. “We use it to push each other in practice.”

“And it really helps in the team's points,” Damich added. “At WPIALs, we got 36 points just in the 500.”

Damich will enter the PIAA championships this week as the swimmer to beat in the 200 and 500 freestyle. He won gold in both events a year ago.

The relay team will look to continue its success at PIAAs. The team was unable to make it out of the preliminaries in either event last year, finishing ninth overall in the 200 and 13th overall in the 400.

But with an added year of experience, the team is looking to make a splash in its final race together.

“The ultimate goal is to win,” Novelli said. “We know there are going to be teams there with faster times, but we have surprised ourselves before. I am sure we can do it again.”

The PIAA Class AA swimming and diving championships were held Wednesday and today, Thursday. Results were unavailable at press time.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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