Gateway swimmers rack up records, qualifying times
By: Michael Love
Saturday, December 30, 2017 | 6:27 PM
When the Gateway swimmers and coaches arrived at the high school natatorium for practice last Thursday, they were greeted with cold temperatures as heating issues chilled an otherwise toasty pool area.
But it was business as usual for the Gators as they progressed through a holiday-break workout leading to the start of Section 3-AAA competition.
“We've increased the yardage like a lot of schools do during the Christmas break, focusing a lot on discipline things like kicks and strokes,” Gateway swim coach Jonathan Moore said.
“These practices are challenging, but they know they are necessary as we get to where we want to be.”
The practices concluded last Saturday with an intrasquad meet where the captains broke the swimmers up into two teams for relaxed and friendly competition.
The section slate begins Thursday against Woodland Hills.
“It's still too early to tell how they will do in the section,” Moore said. “I know we will have some good and fast swims and see some qualify for WPIALs, but I just don't know how our depth will match up with other teams.
“Woodland Hills certainly will be a good first test. They always have talented swimmers that push us in races.”
Moore was encouraged to see the team progress from preseason practices through the December meets against Penn-Trafford, Greensburg-Salem and Hempfield.
“We have a lot of new swimmers, and they hadn't had any meet experience,” Moore said. “Going into that first meet was new for them. They had a little bit better understanding going into the second meet and improved.
“It was nice to see the older and more experienced kids, some with new or larger leadership roles, encouraging the younger ones. It's a good team atmosphere.”
There were several highlights to come out of December competition, including a school record for sophomore Olivia Livingston.
The defending WPIAL 50- and 100-yard freestyle champion added the 100 backstroke school record to her school records in the 50 and 100 frees with a time of 58.50 seconds against Hempfield.
The previous record was established by Randy Moldovan in 1998 (59.93).
“I had been really working hard on my backstroke,” Livingston said. “It was really nice to get (the record).”
Livingston is about a second off the school record in the 100 fly. At the Pitt Christmas meet, she swam a 200 free time three seconds faster than the school record.
Splitting practice time with her Gateway team and her Jewish Community Center club squad, Livingston also is preparing to compete in the 50, 100 and 200 frees and the 100 back at the TYR Pro Series meet January 11-14 in Austin, Texas.
“I'm excited,” she said. “It's the first meet I will be going to on a plane. Some Olympians and professional swimmers are expected to be there.”
Livingston owns WPIAL qualifying marks so far in the 100 back, 50 and 100 frees, the 100 fly and the 200 IM. Moore feels she undoubtedly would qualify in the other individual events, but he said her focus for WPIALs is centered on the 50 and 100 frees.
“Olivia has her goals, but she also is so encouraging in helping the other swimmers reach their goals,” Moore said.
Michael Holmes qualified individually in the 200 free with a 1:52.28 against Hempfield. Moore said Holmes also is close to qualifying in the 100 free.
Savannah Plaskon earned her WPIAL cut in the 50 free with a 25.56 time against Greensburg-Salem.
Jacob Mears again will dive at WPIALs as he earned a qualifying mark at Greensburg-Salem.
The boys and girls 200 free and medley relays also have punched tickets to WPIALs.
Moore said Dave MacMurchy is less than eight seconds away from a qualifying cut in the 500, and Nathan Gabriel is three-tenths of a second off in the 50 free.