Gateway’s Morgan Holmes aims for faster times in 2nd trip to WPIAL meet

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Sunday, February 21, 2021 | 9:01 AM


Morgan Holmes’ introduction to swimming at WPIALs as a freshman last year came in the 200- and 50-yard freestyle events and as a member of the Gateway 200 and 400 free relays.

Her inaugural WPIAL race in the 50 produced a time of 25.48 seconds and landed her in 21st overall.

Holmes came back this winter with improvement in all her races on her mind, and she knows she will get another opportunity in the 50 free at WPIALs after earning an automatic time in the event (25.84) against Franklin Regional on Feb. 4.

She is guaranteed to swim the event at the Class AAA championships March 7 at Upper St. Clair High School.

“I knew that the (automatic) time was a 24.90, and at the meet before I got it (Fox Chapel), I went a 24.91, so I was so close,” Holmes said.

“I knew I would get it. I just had to push harder. At the Franklin meet, when I finished, I looked up and saw that time, I felt such relief and excitement that I knew I was going to WPIALs. I didn’t have to worry about anything else.”

The 25.84 put her ninth on the WPIAL Class AAA performance list released Feb. 15.

The final list for the season was to be released Sunday, past the deadline for this week’s edition.

The top 16 individuals and top 12 relays in each event will make up the field for the WPIAL Class AAA and Class AA meets.

Saturday was the final day where times recorded at meets would count for WPIAL qualification. The WPIAL was expected to seed the meet and release the preliminary psych sheets Wednesday at WPIAL.org.

“WPIALs last year was an amazing experience, but I did have some nerves,” Holmes said. “I know what to expect now, and I am ready to swim against some amazing competition.”

Holmes joins Summer Raymer (200 free, 500 free) and older brother Andrew (50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 200 individual medley), both juniors, as Gateway representatives with automatic WPIALs cuts.

Holmes also hoped to improve her stock in the 100 free. She was 21st on the Feb. 15 performance list and headed into the final regular season meet with Plum last Thursday about a second away from the automatic qualifying standard (53.70).

“At this point, Morgan’s mindset is very good as far as where she wants to be for WPIALs and hopefully states,” Gateway coach Sherry Sonetti said.

“It was tough for her and the other swimmers earlier in the season with being in and out of the water so much. But she is just so pumped up for swims at WPIALs. She believes in herself and has worked so hard to get faster.”

Holmes was the young gun on her two WPIAL relays last year. She was a part of the 400 free relay with junior Summer Raymer and graduates Jessica Stroh and Olivia Livingston that placed sixth (3:37.21) and earned a trip to states.

She also helped the 200 free relay, with Raymer, Livingston and graduate Sydney Perry, earn an eighth-place medal (1:40.45).

Fast forward to now, and the current quartet of the 200 free relay — Holmes, Raymer and freshmen sisters Mallory and McKenna Brown — made a charge for a spot at WPIALs.

The relay swam a 1:43.58 against Kiski Area on Feb. 16. The time was not automatic for WPIALs — that is a 1:41.00 — but it put them in about 10th place and in the conversation to be included in the field of 12.

“I remember being behind the starting blocks telling Mallory, McKenna and Summer to have fun with it and give it everything we had,” Holmes said.

“I knew that we could get that time. I was excited when I saw how much it bumped us up. We were really excited.”

The relay hoped to improve its time and move higher in the standings with its final swim against Plum.

Holmes said she hopes both Mallory and McKenna Brown can experience WPIALs as freshman the way she did last year.

“After all the delays and uncertainties with covid, I think we all really got into a good rhythm the past couple of weeks and tried to swim all of our practices and meets like it was our last,” Holmes said.

“I am pretty proud of what we’ve all done this year. Hopefully, there are many more good things to come at WPIALs.”

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

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