Gateway’s Holmes motivated by medal-winning performance

Sunday, January 24, 2021 | 8:01 AM

Andrew Holmes was among the top swimmers in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events at last year’s WPIAL Class 3A championship meet at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

The Gateway junior earned top-eight medals and punched his ticket to the PIAA championships in both events. He also helped the 200 free relay earn a WPIAL medal and a chance to swim at states.

While he was able to relish those accomplishments, Holmes has not rested on them. He considers himself as motivated as ever.

“Once you get to that point at WPIALs and states, you want more,” said Holmes, who also trains and competes year-round with the Jewish Community Center Sailfish club team.

“They were confidence boosters for me. All of it drove me to get better. I have goals of doing even better at WPIAL and states this year.”

WPIAL officials on Jan. 12 released lowered qualifying-standard times for each event in the face of possible capacity restrictions for the championship meets in early March.

Holmes said he was prepared for the new times but still was surprised at how much lower some of them were.

“It was crazy to see how the 200 free started at a 1:52 or 1:53 and dropped all the way to a 1:46,” Holmes said. “I think there will be a lot more competition at WPIALs with fewer heats and more people wanting the podium and trips to states.”

PIAA officials last month reduced the number of qualifiers in each event for its championship meets from the traditional 32 to 16.

“I am confident that Drew will qualify for WPIALs in anything he swims,” Gateway coach Sherry Sonetti said. “He really took advantage of dryland workouts during the (covid) shutdown and came back with a positive attitude and ready to compete.”

The first competition for Holmes and the rest of the Gateway swimmers and divers was scheduled for last Thursday at home against Hampton. The meet was to be contested past deadline for this week’s edition.

The Gators will be back in the pool Thursday at Section 3-AAA rival Fox Chapel.

Holmes said he is excited to see where he is at this point in the season and to measure himself against strong competition.

“Last year was an amazing season, and it was cool to be able to share it with my teammates who always want the best for me,” Holmes said.

“They know my goals just as much as I know my goals. It was really nice to have that support of my teammates and also be able to support them in their swims, too.”

Holmes placed 16th in his preliminary swim in the 500 free (4:40.92) at last year’s PIAA championships at Bucknell and qualified for the consolation finals set for later in the day.

However, the PIAA, citing the growing covid concern, canceled the second-day championship session, denying Holmes the opportunity to better his 500 time and placement.

“It was really disappointing to not be able to swim that consolation final,” Holmes said. “I just wanted to go in and swim my fastest and see where it got me. But to just make the finals was awesome for me and something great to take with me into this season. I have a lot of motivation.”

Sonetti said she had no doubt what Holmes could’ve accomplished had he been able to swim the consolation final, which affords a swimmer the opportunity to finish as high as ninth in the final standings.

“I know he would’ve swum faster in the evening and placed better,” Sonetti said. “He had a lot of energy left.”

Holmes’ PIAA time of 4:40.92 in the 500 broke the school record, surpassing the previous record of 4:41.93 set by Olympic Trials qualifier and Pitt alum Luke Nosbish in 2011. He said he is honored to be on the record board with so many of the greats of Gateway swimming.

Holmes also finished 18th at states in the 200 free and helped the 200 free relay, which had earned a seventh-place medal at WPIALs, swim to 24th overall at Bucknell.

His 200 free time of 1:43.08 at WPIALs was close to the school record of 1:42.6 established in 1976.

“I’d like to see me and my teammates go after a relay record,” Holmes said. “I think we have a good chance.”

The 200 free relay swam a 1:28.96 at WPIALs last year, and the record is 1:26.29. Five of the six who swam the relay at either WPIALs or states are back for this season.

Despite the covid shutdown that began right after the state meet and lasted through the early summer, Holmes said he stayed motivated until he was able to get back in the water.

“I was biking a lot and running,” he said. “I was doing whatever I could to get into swim shape. But you can only do so much biking and running. There’s nothing like being in the pool. Being in the pool and swimming laps is a huge difference.”

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


More High School Sports

George Guido: New River Valley High envelops Saltsburg, Blairsville
Softball a family affair for PIAA champion Mt. Pleasant
Westmoreland notebook: Youngstown State offers Belle Vernon’s Whitlock
Plum baseball team eager to tackle summer tournament schedule
Norwin notebook: Knights baseball, softball players earn spot on Big 5/6 all-section teams

click me