Gateway freshman Aliya Rassiane looks forward to WPIAL championship debut

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Sunday, February 18, 2024 | 11:01 AM


The WPIAL swimming championship meet at Pitt’s Trees Pool is fast approaching, and Gateway freshman Aliya Rassiane’s excitement for her first opportunity to compete against the best in the district grows with every workout in the pool.

Rassiane has produced times this season to put her among the top competitors in the Class 2A 50-yard freestyle, 100 free and 100 butterfly.

“I can’t wait to get the experience of swimming at WPIALs,” she said. “I have been waiting to be a part of it all, and I am excited to go down there with my teammates. I am ranked pretty high, so I hope I can medal there.”

Rassiane said she expected to have conversations with Gateway coach Glenn Raymer about what she wants to do at WPIALs.

Also expected to be a part of the 200 free relay, a swim in both the 50 free and 100 fly would put her in three consecutive events on the first day of the meet Feb. 29.

She feels that she would be able to manage that pretty well.

“I have a better chance of doing well in the 50 free and 100 fly because of where I am ranked,” Rassiane said.

“I know that doing a lot of work in practice will have me ready to do that and perform better.”

When the latest WPIAL performance lists came out Feb. 13, Rassiane was ranked sixth in the 50 free and eighth in the 100 fly.

Those above her in the 50 free read like a who’s who of the top sprinters in the state. Included in that is defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Lily King from Mt. Pleasant and also former WPIAL champion Katie Jackovic from South Park.

“I have never faced Lily before, so it should be a lot of fun to race her,” Rassiane said.

“She has had so much experience going to different championship meets and winning so much and setting records. It will be fun to see how I measure up.”

Rassiane has qualified in six individual events overall. The only ones not reached for her is the 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke.

“Freestyle and butterfly are my main events,” she said. “It would be cool to qualify in all of them, but I just want to focus my attention on the events that are going to give me the best chance at being successful.”

Coach Raymer said he is pleased with the way Rassiane has performed in her first varsity season.

“She has stepped up and been a true contributor to the team,” he said. “I think she’s going to do some great things. She’s preparing really well for WPIALs and has a chance to make it to states.”

Junior Hunter Raymer, a former WPIAL champion in the 500 free, completed the eight-event individual sweep by qualifying in the 100 breast against Shaler on Feb. 8.

He joins sophomore Gunner Raymer and seniors McKenna and Mallory Brown in completing the sweep.

Hunter Raymer is ranked fourth in the 200 individual medley and fifth in the 500 free on the Class 3A performance lists.

His cut in the 100 breast was the latest qualification mark reached by a Gateway swimmer heading into the final week of the regular season. Senior Mark DiPalma picked up a WPIAL cut in the 100 back against Baldwin on Feb. 1.

Other favorites to medal and have a chance to reach the PIAA championships include Gunner Raymer, ranked 13th most recently in the boys Class 3A 200 free.

McKenna Brown hopes to excel in her final WPIAL meet, and she was ranked 14th in the girls Class 2A 100 free.

Sophomore Gianna Laurenti, like Gunner Raymer, gained valuable experience in her WPIAL debut last year, and she was 16th in the girls Class 2A 100 breast.

The performance lists rank everyone who has qualified in each event with the knowledge that some of the top-ranked swimmers will scratch out of certain events when finalizing what they will swim at WPIALs. That will allow others to bump up, possibly into medal position.

Gateway was to face rival Plum in the dual-meet finale last Thursday before hosting a six-team last-chance meet for area swimmers on Friday.

Coach Raymer said a number of swimmers, including senior Colton Park, headed into the meets close to earning qualification marks in their events. Others hoped to improve on already-established qualification times.

More rest at this point of the season, coach Raymer said, is helping energize those hoping to get in the WPIAL mix.

He said that a number of discussions about what individual events swimmers would compete in at WPIALs and how the relay lineups would be constructed were necessary before the submission deadline to the WPIAL on Monday.

Both Gateway teams owned 4-1 section records heading into the meet with Plum. The only section losses were to Fox Chapel on Jan. 23.

DiPalma, Park, the Brown sisters, Paige Wienand and Alesha McMullen were celebrated for senior night festivities prior to the meet with Shaler.

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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