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Albert Gallatin two-person swim team hopes to make some noise

| Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011

By now, the sports world is used to pregame team chants. We've all seen them: team gets into a huddle, begins swinging and swaying, while doing a spirited chant.

Not to be outdone, the Albert Gallatin swim team is considering creating its own chant.

After all, team members simply don't want to be left out.

"We've been thinking about it," AG junior Nick Gresh said, "but we're not exactly sure what we plan to do. We've tossed around several ideas."

The Colonials' chant may not be as loud as neighbor school Laurel Highlands', since the entire AG swim team consists of Gresh and senior Kendall Duley.

The Colonials make a daily after-school 10-minute trek to Laurel Highlands High School, where they swim under the watchful eye of LH coach Bill McCombie.

"We've thought about building a zip line and come zipping into the pool when Laurel Highlands' swimmers are doing their pregame routine," Gresh said, laughing, "but we're not sure if that's a good idea. Or maybe we can have our own two-person huddle and create our own chant before the meet. I wonder how that would go over with everyone?"

This is Gresh's first year swimming competitively in high school, while Duley earned a spot in the WPIAL qualifier last year in the 100 backstroke, swimming with Laurel Highlands. According to WPIAL by-laws, participants from one school may swim with -- but not compete for -- another school when a school does not have a team of its own.

McCombie, however is familiar with both athletes, having instructed both at the Uniontown YMCA. Prior to swimming with his Mustangs, he was aware of their strengths and familiar with their progress.

"Kendall swam with us last year, and it was all new to her at that time, and this is Nick's first opportunity to see varsity competition. It's been an adjustment, compared to swimming at the Y," McCombie said. "Nick is a tough kid and he's getting used to the competitive nature of high school swimming. He has been making noticeable progress since the season began. He has good starts off the block and makes good turns. His times have been improving and I look for them to drop further."

In his best event, the 50 freestyle, Gresh's time is less than a second from meeting the WPIAL qualifying time. His times in the 100 freestyle and 200 Individual Medley are several seconds away from qualifying times this season. (As of Feb. 6, Gresh had not met a qualifying time.)

"This is my first year swimming in varsity competition and everything is new to me," Gresh added. "I'm still getting used to the higher level of competition. I'm using this year as a learning experience and would like to make the qualifier, but my goal is to qualify next year, for sure."

Duley, on the other hand, qualified for the WPIALs last season and again this one in the 100 backstroke. She's competing in the 50- and 100-freestyle events, too.

"Just being a part of this program at Laurel Highlands this year has taught me a lot," Gresh said. "Each meet is a new experience. Each meet is against a different school and different swimmers, but the LH swimmers make me feel at home. But I've found that we are not alone in this situation. There are other schools that don't have a lot of swimmers, just like us, so we have something in common. Of course, it would be nice to have our own pool and more swimmers, but everything isn't always the way we would like."

From his involvement at the YMCA pool, Gresh knew many LH swimmers prior to his first varsity practice, "and they made me feel comfortable," he said. "But being involved with varsity practices was an entirely new experience. I really didn't know what to expect and it was difficult at first, but I've become used to it and the demands of varsity swimming. I can tell I'm improving in each event because my times are getting better I've qualified for districts with the Uniontown YMCA, but it's tougher swimming in high school."

Considering the circumstances of not having their own pool, "Nick and Kendall are doing well," McCombie said. "They are fortunate in having been involved at the Y with other swimmers from Laurel Highlands, so it's not like they were thrown into a completely different situation. They've made a good transition and it's just as if we all are a part of one program."

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