Big summer for Monroeville Marlins youth swimming program

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Saturday, July 8, 2023 | 8:01 AM


The Monroeville Marlins summer swim program’s opportunity to utilize Gateway’s facilities has paid off as the organization will be well represented at a local long course championship meet later this month.

The Marlins, who used to be based at the Haymaker Swim Club, have utilized the Gateway natatorium for the second year in a row.

With the ability to get consistent and quality pool time, the summer program nearly doubled in size to 25 swimmers in a year as it looks to continue to be a feeder for the Gateway swimming program.

The Marlins had 13 swimmers qualify for the Allegheny Mountain Swimming PEAQ Summer Champs meet that will be held at the Scott Township Pool on July 14-16.

The swimmers who qualified are headlined by Gianna Laurenti, who qualified for WPIALs in the 100 breast and 50 free and was part of the 400-free relay team that medaled. Laurenti qualified in the 200 back in the 11-and-over division as well as the 200 IM in the 13-and-over division.

Colton Park, a rising senior who made it to the WPIALs the last two years, also qualified for the meet in the 100 free and 50 free in the 13-and-over division.

“Our numbers grew because a lot of parents recognized the gains their kids were making in the fall and winter and they wanted to encourage that,” head coach Kathy Bernardi said. “Our younger-aged swimmers are really where the numbers are. These 25 kids have really bought in.

“It’s the biggest summer team that we’ve ever had. My practices are challenging. The kids come in every day. They aren’t grumpy. They aren’t miserable. They are cheerful and they laugh. To their credit, they are coming in and they are grinding for two hours four days a week.”

The Pekarek twins, Maddie and Katelyn, qualified in six events each. Maddie Pekarek qualified in the 50 back, 100 free, 50 breast, 100 breast and 100 fly in the 12-and-under division as well as the 200 back in the 11-and-over division.

Katelyn Pekarek qualified in the 50 back, 100 free, 200 free and 100 fly in the 12-and-under division as well as the 400 IM and 200 back in the 11-and-over division.

Caitlin Susko qualified in six events as well as a 12 year-old. Susko qualified in the 50 back, 100 free, 200 free, 50 breast and 100 breast in the 12-and-under division as well as the 200 back in the 11-and-over division.

The Marlins will have the Hedjazi brothers — Allreza, Armaan and Aryan — competing at the meet as well. Nine-year-old Armaan qualified in the 50 back, 100 free and 50 breast in the 12-and-under division as well as the 200 IM in the 10-and-under division.

Addy Golden, a 9-year-old swimmer, qualified in the 50 back, 100 free, 200 free and 100 breast in the 12-and-under division and the 200 IM in the 10-and-under division.

Other Marlins swimmers who qualified include Bella Eichelberger, Maddie Eichelberger, Ellie Kaminski and Myla Kovacs.

Maddie Pekarek and the rest of the Marlins are excited to get in the pool for the PEAQ Summer Champs meet as the swimmers try to reach the National “A” time standards in the respective events in order to qualify for the AMS Age Group Championships at Pitt’s Trees Pool on July 20-23.

“I’m very excited because me and my sister are both trying to get ‘A’ times so we can both go to the AMS championships,” Maddie Pekarek said.

“Sometimes it’s rough, but eventually we will get the times that we are aiming for by practicing a lot and working hard day by day. A lot of my teammates push me and work me to my limits.”

As Bernardi works hand and hand with Gateway’s coach Glenn Raymer, Bernardi is optimistic the success the Marlins summer program is having will pay off for the Gateway swim program in the years to come.

“It is my hope this is the beginning of building the summer program and to continue to grow competitive swimming in Monroeville so that we can have our school district really competing in WPIALs,” Bernardi said. “It takes more than a few rock stars. It takes having depth on your team. That’s what I’m seeing with these young kids.”

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