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Swimming

Top WPIAL swimmers expected for Christmas Meet

| Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, 3:12 p.m.

Swimmers from the WPIAL will face a big early-season test at the Team Pittsburgh Aquatics Christmas Meet Thursday to Sunday at Pitt's Trees Pool.

Boys and girls will compete in age groups with their USA Swimming clubs.

Meet director Jeff Berghoff said nearly 1,300 people of various ages from six states have entered. Most, if not all, of the top WPIAL swimmers will compete, he said.

In its 54th year, the meet probably is one of the oldest, continuously running meets in the country, said Berghoff, of the sponsoring USA Swimming club at Pitt.

“(This is) not (the) biggest ever, but good sized,” Berghoff said.

Mt. Lebanon senior and Pitt men's recruit Brian Ramsey looks forward to competing.

“The meet is a good indicator of how well training is coming along,” said Ramsey, 17. “It has a good mix of college and high school swimmers, so the competition is great.

“This is the last chance to race on a big stage until WPIALs and states.”

The WPIAL championships will be in March at Pitt.

North Hills Aquatics coach Liz Cleary expects strong showings from the growing number of swimmers who have entered from her club.

“The Christmas meet is one of our biggest motivators,” Cleary said. “The athletes get a midseason-drop taper, and the environment on deck (in) the weeks prior is one of excitement and focus.

“The culture of the meet promotes fast swimming. Athletes know that this weekend is go time.”

Quaker Valley coach Sue Morgan said her club swimmers thrive on the competition.

“Not only are many of the swimmers they'll face at WPIALs and (the state championship) in attendance, but also older swimmers from the college ranks,” she said.

Quaker Valley junior Amelia Besterman said she enjoys facing people from outside Western Pennsylvania.

“The level of competition is always really strong,” said Besterman, 16.

Mt. Lebanon senior Hannah Bumgarner, who signed a letter of intent and will join the Pitt women's team next season, likes that the meet falls days before Christmas.

“It's one of my favorite meets (because) it's right before the holidays,” said Bumgarner, 17.

Berghoff said the facility will be decorated with a lighted tree in the lobby, a tree on the balcony and wreaths and garlands.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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