Championship experience valuable for Pine-Richland swimmer, teammates

Sunday, February 11, 2024 | 11:01 AM

Sarah Anne Shaffer has been fielding questions from her younger teammates about different aspects of the WPIAL swimming championships.

She’s a good source for information because she was in a similar position to theirs just one year ago.

Shaffer was a sophomore hoping to reach her goals and accomplished them by winning the WPIAL 100 breaststroke title.

She’s quickly become a veteran for Pine-Richland and has enjoyed helping her friends as she prepares to defend her title in a few weeks.

“As we get closer to WPIALs, they are asking questions about times, relay spots and how it all works,” Shaffer said. “Some of the girls I swim with are also on my club team and they tell me they enjoyed watching my race last year. I just want to take my experiences and use that to help others. I know as a freshman going to WPIALs, it was overwhelming. It’s a lot different than the USA club meets we do. I want to be helpful and do my best to get everyone ready.”

Shaffer entered last year’s WPIAL meet with the fastest seed time in the 100 breaststroke and backed it up with a victory. She was third the year before.

She’s aiming to be her sharpest again when the WPIAL swimmers hit Pitt’s Trees Pool for the district championships, Feb. 29-March 1.

“I’m feeling really good,” Shaffer said. “We’re still in the training phase, focusing on technique and trusting the process. The anticipation as well as mental and physical preparation is peaking right now. It’s a really exciting time. We’re getting close to championship season, which is always the best part of the year.”

One change for Shaffer is not having her older sister Elizabeth alongside her in the pool. Elizabeth graduated after placing fifth at WPIALs last year and is currently swimming at Carnegie Mellon.

It’s been an adjustment, but Shaffer said it’s allowed her to grow as a person.

“It’s been different, but it’s allowed me to mature on my own and become the person for someone else to lean on, ” Shaffer said. “It’s helped me realize my role and be able to help other people that come to me for advice. Training wise, it’s a little sad, because I don’t get to see her and race her every day in practice, but there’s still other great swimmers here and we can pace off each other.”

Being a defending champion comes with expectations, but Shaffer has done her best to manage them.

Like she did last year, she’s going to continue to put in the work both physically and mentally to be at her best when it matters most.

“I don’t necessarily feel pressure, but I wouldn’t say there’s no weight at all,” Shaffer said. “Any race I’m in, whether it’s a dual meet or an exhibition meet, I’m going to go out there and race the best I can. WPIALs is at a nice and fast pool. I just want to go there and perform how I know I can and hopefully qualify for states and perform well there too.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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