Gateway swimmers earn early WPIAL qualifying times

Sunday, January 9, 2022 | 11:01 AM

The Gateway boys and girls swimming and diving teams have entered the Section 3-3A portion of their schedules, and coach Sherry Sonetti hopes that a strong series of practices over the holiday break will pay dividends.

“I beat them up a little bit with wanting them to get that yardage in,” she said.

“They worked hard, and they were pretty tired after. Now, we are working on pacing, how to come off those walls, and how to finish a race. We came back (Jan. 3) and had one of the best practices so far. You could see how much they wanted to take advantage of the work put in over the holiday break.

“The kids don’t want to take anything for granted as there still is uncertainties with covid and how things can easily change.”

The WPIAL is working through plans for the WPIAL swimming and diving championships. While the diving finals are slated for North Allegheny on Feb. 25 and 26, the swimming finals have yet to find a definite home.

Because of covid logistics issues, last year’s WPIAL championships were moved from Pitt’s Trees Pool to Upper St. Clair High School and the entries for each event were capped at 16.

Automatic time standards posted at guarantee a swimmer or relay a spot at WPIALs. Secondary times also are posted and will be used to fill the remaining entries when the total number for each event is determined.

Heading into last Thursday’s section opener against Woodland Hills, a trio of Gators swimmers had earned automatic qualifying times for WPIALs: senior Summer Raymer (500-yard freestyle), junior Primo Brodt-Jenkins (100 breaststroke) and freshman upstart Hunter Raymer (500 free).

Sonetti said she expects senior Andrew Holmes, last year’s WPIAL champion in the Class 3A boys 200 free and runner-up in the 100 free, to soon pick up several automatic cuts.

He owns school records in the 100 free, 500 free and 200 free.

Holmes’ versatility — Sonetti said he is expanding his portfolio this year to include the butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke — will help the boys team in its goal of its first section title since 2015 and also help him in his pursuit of swimming at the next level.

“No matter where he goes, they can use him in distance freestyle events, in sprints and in the off strokes. He has so much to offer,” Sonetti said.

Brodt-Jenkins is back after placing 10th in the 100 breast at WPIALs last year, and senior Gabriel Sha, who swam the 200 medley relay at WPIALs, is another veteran presence on a team with young talent, Sonetti said, that continues to make an impact.

Those include sophomores Colton Park and Mark DiPalma; and freshmen Owen Echegaray, Kaden Gibson and Ben Echegaray.

“A lot of the new swimmers with different experience levels have a lot of potential,” Sonetti said.

“Some came in knowing nothing and now are in B relays. They have improved so much. They are listening and are working hard every day in practice.”

Summer Raymer, who finalized a commitment to swim next year for Division I Youngstown State, hopes to build on a junior season which saw her earn a fifth-place medal at WPIALs in the 500 free and also take seventh in the 200 free.

“Summer has always put the work in, and she knows she still has some work to do to meet and hopefully exceed her goals,” Sonetti said.

Also back on the girls side is junior Morgan Holmes, who placed 11th in the 50 free and 13th in the 100 free at WPIALs last year.

Sisters Mallory and McKenna Brown both hope to build off of strong freshman seasons that saw them compete on a pair of relays at WPIALs.

Sonetti said sophomore Michelina Estremera and freshmen Jolina Estremera and Addison Helman are ready to make their mark this winter.

“The girls really work well together and are a close group,” Sonetti said. “Their success in the pool comes from their support for each other. I know we will be competitive with the other teams in the section.”

The diving rosters number eight with seven girls and just one boy: junior Noah Passalinqua.

Diving coach John Ritter said Passalinqua has a good shot of qualifying for WPIALs.

Two of the divers on the girls side — freshmen Katelyn Janeiro and Piper Ranallo — will dive in boys competitions all season. Ritter said they will help earn points toward the team score in section meets.

“It’s a really good thing the WPIAL has enacted this year for the girls to be able to do that,” Ritter said.

“Once they join the boys team, they have to do it the entire year. We asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to do that, and Katelyn and Piper did.

“All of the divers are making great progress, and they are all following each other. If one makes a breakthrough, the others see how to do that, and they follow suit.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .


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