Gateway swimmers find success at WPIAL meet, earn berths to state competition

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Sunday, March 10, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Gateway sophomore Gunner Raymer briefly faced a measure of adversity right before his 200-yard freestyle swim at the WPIAL Class 3A championships Feb. 29 at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

He had a minor equipment failure as his goggles broke.

“That kind of gave me an adrenaline rush,” Raymer said.

“You obviously hope that kind of thing never happens. I ran down to where my dad (Gateway coach Glenn Raymer) was, and (teammate) Owen Echegaray had an extra pair. He threw me his goggles and I put them on. The referees gave me the time to do that. I had a moment of panic, but it all ended OK. I knew I could handle it.”

Raymer cut nearly two seconds off his seed time in the 200, finishing sixth with medal-winning time of 1 minute, 43.86 seconds.”

“I didn’t swim too bad,” he said. “I should’ve taken it out a little faster, but my back half was pretty good. My turns were all right. I was happy with my swim.”

Raymer’s time secured another opportunity to swim at the PIAA championships at Bucknell and join older brother Hunter, a junior, on the state’s grandest stage.

The Class 3A boys championships started Wednesday and continues Thursday at Bucknell.

Raymer qualified as the 19th seed in the 200.

Gateway boys and girls swimmers punched their tickets to states in 10 events overall.

Hunter Raymer produced swims at WPIALs that qualified him as the eighth seed in the 200 individual medley (1:54.49) and sixth seed in the 500 free (4:36.33).

Coach Raymer said he felt Hunter, who placed third in the 200 IM and fourth in the 500 at WPIALs, had a good shot at earning state medals in both events.

“We kind of tweaked his workouts coming out of WPIALs so he can go faster at states,” coach Raymer said.

The Raymer brothers teamed with Echegaray, a junior, and senior Mark DiPalma at WPIALs to place ninth in the 400 free relay in a time of 3:14.73, less than a second away from a WPIAL medal.

But their time earned them the 27th qualifying seed for Thursday’s race at Bucknell.

The Class 2A girls state meet begins Friday and continues Saturday, and freshman Aliya Rassiane makes her PIAA debut as the seventh seed in the 100 butterfly and the 12th seed in the 50 free.

Senior sisters McKenna and Mallory Brown also will conclude their high school careers with individual swims. McKenna is the 22nd seed in the 100 free (55.03) and 30th seed in the 200 free (2:00.91), while Mallory is the 21st seed in the 500 free (5:23.08).

The Gateway girls 400 free relay of the Brown sisters, Rassiane and sophomore Gianna Laurenti are in position for a PIAA medal as the seventh seed (3:38.89) for Saturday morning’s preliminaries.

They took fourth in the event on Day 2 of WPIALs behind champion Kiski Area, runner-up Northgate and third-place Mt. Pleasant and cut 10 seconds off their seed time.

Those four bounced back from major adversity from the first day.

In the 200 free relay, they swam faster than any other team to claim what they thought was a WPIAL title. However, a meet official ruled there was an early start with one of the legs, and the relay was disqualified.

“When the disqualification happened, it was heartbreaking,” coach Raymer said.

“They went from the highest of highs of being on top to feeling that heartbreak. The big thing was how they rebounded. They understood that they still had the opportunity to swim on the second day. They came back in great spirits the next day ready to go. They did a great job of putting themselves in position to end the season on a high note.”

McKenna kicked off Day 2 for the Gateway girls with an eighth-place medal in the 100 free, while Mallory Brown followed with a seventh in the 500 free.

Laurenti followed up her 14th-place finish in the 50 free (25.58) from Day 1 with a 17th in the 100 breast (1:10.69).

Rassiane swam both of her individual events on Day 1, and she was fifth in both the 50 free and 100 fy.

“Aliya handled herself like a veteran,” coach Raymer said.

“When she gets in the water, she loves to race. That is exactly what she did. That paid off for her in both her individual events and the relays. She led off the 400 free relay with a personal best. She had personal bests in all four of her swims.”

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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