Gateway’s Livingston joins WPIAL swimming elite as 8-time champion

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Friday, February 28, 2020 | 2:20 PM


As Gateway’s Olivia Livingston stepped on the medals podium at Pitt’s Trees Pool on Friday morning, she also found her place in WPIAL history — right at the top.

The Gateway senior claimed her eighth individual gold medal by winning the 100-yard freestyle at the WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships, tying 1984 Penn Hills grad Melanie Buddemyer for the most in district history.

It’s a mark that can never be broken, as swimmers can compete in just two individual events at the championship meet each year.

“It’s insane. I never thought I’d be able to do something like this,” said Livingston, who touched the wall in 50.15 seconds. “When I came (to WPIALs) in ninth grade, I had no idea I’d be able to do what I did. It was just insane to think I can be put into the same category as people like Melanie. I’m really blessed.”

Livingston set a WPIAL record in the event in 2017, finishing in 49.53. Though she didn’t quite hit that mark Friday, she found happiness in the accomplishment and her place among all-time WPIAL greats.

“I’m happy, of course, all the time whenever I’m able to win,” said Livingston, who won the 50 free in 23.09 on Thursday. She also holds the WPIAL (22.71) and PIAA (22.73) record in that event.

“Not many people can say they win at places like this. I’m always blessed for that. No matter what the time was, I think I’m just going to come back better at states. I’m happy because I was able to do this.”

In addition to tying Buddemyer’s WPIAL mark, the Louisville commit also became the first Gateway swimmer to win the 100 freestyle four times since Michelle Chow (1983-86).

The race started well for Livingston, who was in the lead as soon as she hit the water. She led by more than a second at the midway point and pulled ahead by a full length by the final 25 yards.

She was congratulated with smiles, high-fives and hugs by some of the WPIAL’s fastest sprinters, including South Fayette’s Abbie Duncan (51.52) and Upper St. Clair’s Taylor Connors (51.66), who finished second and third in the event.

“She is such a competitor and she will do anything it takes to get to that point,” Gateway coach Sherry Sonetti said. “It does not get old. I love seeing her swim. She has such a great streamline, fast turn. It’s something the younger kids can learn from.”

Livingston will now turn her attention to the PIAA championships, set for March 11-14 at Bucknell. She will attempt to become a four-time state champion in the 50 free and will contend for her first gold medal in the 100 free.

“I have so much to look forward to no matter what happens,” she said. “Of course, I want to do well. I’m excited. .. I’m really excited to have my last states and be able to move on in my swim career.”

Gateway had medalists in three other events Friday.

Sophomore Summer Raymer took second in the 500 freestyle (5:05.26), and sophomore Andrew Holmes placed fourth in the 500 freestyle (4:40.95).

The girls 400 free relay of Raymer, Morgan Holmes, Jessica Stroh and Livingston finished sixth in 3:37.21.

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.

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