Gateway, Olivia Livingston set to make noise on WPIAL swim scene

Sunday, December 15, 2019 | 11:48 AM

The Gateway swim teams have started the new season with a new leader.

After Jonathan Moore resigned in the offseason, Sherry Sonetti was named coach of the boys and girls teams this past summer.

Sonetti is no stranger to the Gateway swimming program, its swimmers or the school district, having worked as the cafeteria manager for Gateway middle school for the past 30 years.

She also has a similar coaching background to Moore’s — being a part of the Monroeville Marlins coaching staff for 25 years as well as assistant coach to the high school program at Gateway for 20 seasons.

“I feel that from the many years of experience from coaching different age groups, it gives me a window of knowing what will work to make this team successful in a lot of different ways,” Sonetti said. “I’ve coached most of these swimmers since they were young swimmers. I know they respect me and will do what I ask.”

Sonetti also feels she has learned a lot when it comes to coaching swimmers.

“I’ve gotten many great pointers (from great coaches) on the important parts of coaching, workouts, techniques, how to motivate kids,” she said. “It gives me a perspective on how to push our swimmers to perform to the best of their ability.”

Sonetti inherited a program with a strong tradition, including a competitive girls team and one of the best WPIAL swimmers in recent memory, Olivia Livingston.

Livingston, a Louisville commit, has set WPIAL and PIAA records in the 50 and 100 freestyle events throughout her career, including a state title in the 50 freestyle and a WPIAL gold medal in the 100 freestyle last season.

Sonetti has known Livingston since she was 10.

“Not only does Olivia listen to suggestions, she works so hard day-in and day-out,” she said. “Her academics are outstanding. She’s humble. She is hard on herself, and she doesn’t want to let down her teammates.

“She is the whole package.”

Sonetti believes having her talent on the team shows the younger swimmers what it takes to work hard and achieve their goals.

The girls finished 13th of 27 schools at the WPIAL championships at Pitt last March, which earned them a spot in PIAAs. The team finished 21st of 59 schools at Bucknell.

After one competition this season — a tri-meet with Bethel Park and Latrobe on Dec. 10, which saw both teams split — Sonetti is already impressed with girls not named Livingston, who missed the meet after competing in a national tournament.

“Some of the swimmers that stood out to the coaches were sophomore Summer Raymer, qualifying for WPIALs in the 500 free and 100 backstroke, along with juniors Lauren Harper and Hannah Mitchell,” Sonetti said.

“We have some strong freshman girls this year in Morgan Holmes, Ayva Harris, Sarah Harper, Sierra Murphy along with Natalie Helman.

“We have a large class of senior girls who are all great leaders and are showing the younger swimmers how to work together as a team.”

Along with Raymer, Andrew Holmes on the boys side qualified and competed as a freshman at WPIALs last season.

Sonetti expects Holmes to set a standard with his results for the rest of his teammates this season as a sophomore.

Holmes already has qualified for the 500 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.

Juniors Andrew Nicolazzo and Dylan Cook, sophomores Aiden Colberg and Gabe Sha and freshman Primo Brodt Jenkins also have caught the eye of the coaching staff.

“The team as a whole needs to continue working on the little things like fast turns and getting out further off the walls,” Sonetti said. “I strongly believe that with how hard they work, they will succeed at any goals they set for themselves.

“They have been working extremely hard, and I know we will see more swimmers qualify for the WPIALs this year.”

Robert Scott III is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.


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