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Champion swimmer selected for WPIAL Hall of Fame

Michael Love
| Thursday, April 19, 2012, 11:45 a.m.

In and out of the swimming pool, Mel Nash made his mark.

He won championships and set numerous records during his time at Gateway and continued to set the bar at the collegiate level and on the world stage.

Nash then moved into coaching, and he hasn't stopped mentoring in the sport he loves.

On June 1, he will take his place next to some of the greatest Pittsburgh-area athletes and teams with induction into the WPIAL Hall of Fame.

"It's so nice to be remembered for those accomplishments so long ago," Nash said. "It's nice to be recognized for what we did at Gateway. So many people had a hand in my success, and it will be great to share this honor with them."

This year's banquet and ceremony will be at the DoubleTree Hotel in Green Tree, and the Class of 2012 is a who's who of WPIAL athletic greats.

Others to be inducted include former Pine-Richland and current Pittsburgh Pirates baseball star Neil Walker; Blackhawk and Pitt basketball standout Sean Miller, the men's basketball coach at the University of Arizona; and Fox Chapel graduate and area golf champion Frank Fuhrer III.

"A lot of the high schools in the Pittsburgh area had a pool (in the late 1960s and early 1970s)," Nash said. "I thought that was the case everywhere I went, from Indiana to Texas to Florida, but it wasn't. We had so many great swimmers. It was a great tradition, and the WPIAL helped foster swimming as a legitimate high school sport."

Nash was an eight-time WPIAL champion, and he set eight WPIAL records. A record he established in 1972 stood for 20 years.

He also was a seven-time PIAA state champion, and set seven state records.

Nash earned WPIAL Swimmer of the Year honors three years in a row from his sophomore to senior years, and he was the first sophomore and junior to receive the award in its 35-year history.

When he graduated, Nash held Gateway records in eight of 10 events, and he still is the school record holder in the 100 free and 100 backstroke.

Nash said winning a state title in the 200 medley relay and setting the state record (1:40.57) in the event as a sophomore with Corky Semler, Rob Creagan and Craig Simpson in 1970 was one of his fondest memories of his swimming career at Gateway.

After his graduation, Gateway established the Mel Nash Award, given each year to the most outstanding Gators swimmer.

In 1972, Nash was named the national high school swimmer of the year by Swimming World Magazine.

He won a gold medal at the Pan-Am Games at age 16 in 1971.

Nash went on to be- come an All-American during all four years at Indiana University.

He won a bronze medal at the 1975 World Championships and also placed fifth in the 100-meter backstroke at the 1976 Olympic Trials, missing a spot on the U.S. team by 16 one-hundredths of a second.

Nash enjoyed a 25-year career as the head coach of the Texas A&M men's and women's swim programs and guided the teams to a more than 240 dual-meet victories combined.

He guided Aggies teams to top-10 NCAA finishes and helped dozens of swimmers achieve All-American status.

Nash lives in Jacksonville, Fla., and runs North Florida Swimming, a youth club organization, with his wife, Carol. North Florida Swimming is affiliated with USA Swimming.

His induction adds to the Gateway graduates, athletic greats and teams already among those in the WPIAL Hall of Fame.

Legendary Gateway football coach Pete Antimarino is a member of the first WPIAL Hall of Fame induction class in 2007.

"I was fortunate enough to get to know Pete," Nash said. "He has such great character and is a coaching legend. It's great to see him earn all the hall-of-fame recognition he has."

Michelle Chow, who won eight PIAA individual gold medals and seven WPIAL championships in swimming for Gateway in the mid 1980s, was inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame in 2008.

Chow swam in college for Nash at Texas A&M.

"Michelle was an absolutely amazing swimmer," Nash said. "She is a big part of that Gateway swimming tradition."

Gateway graduate and former WPIAL Executive Director Larry Hanley also was inducted in 2008.

The 1986 Gators football team, which finished 13-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country by USA Today, was inducted in 2010.

Nash said the WPIAL as a whole has established itself as one of the greatest areas for high school sports.

"As I look over this years induction class and the other five classes, I wondered how do you fit everyone in? It's so rich in tradition, not only in football but in all sports. It's mind-boggling that such a small area has produced so many great athletes.

"There's a great pride at coming from the Pittsburgh area. The base I was able to establish from my time at Gateway and being from Pittsburgh has helped me throughout all my accomplishments wherever I've gone."

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