Gateway’s Olivia Livingston eyes history at WPIAL swimming championships

Thursday, February 20, 2020 | 11:11 PM

In her fourth and final performance at the WPIAL individual swimming championships, Gateway’s Olivia Livingston has a chance to again make history in the WPIAL and PIAA.

The senior will be looking to become the second female swimmer in WPIAL history to win gold in the same two events (50- and 100-yard freestyles) all four years in her high school career Feb. 28-29 at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

Penn Hills’ Melanie Buddemeyer (1981-84) was the first swimmer to complete the feat, winning WPIAL gold in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley.

Livingston has two additional chances to win a medal in the 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay. Making history won’t be on her mind, she said.

“I don’t like to think about the extra things. I just like to focus on going fast in my races and seeing what happens after that,” Livingston said. “I don’t like to focus on records. When I broke records before, I never thought about getting the WPIAL record.”

“I actually didn’t know until after the race that I found out I broke a record, so the pressure doesn’t really help me perform.”

Eleven other Gateway swimmers will compete at the championships. Summer Raymer will race in the 200 and 500 freestyles and the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.

Morgan Holmes will participate in the 200 freestyle, the 200 and 400 freestyle relays and the 50 freestyle. Ayva Harris qualified in the 100 breaststroke and 200 medley relay.

Jessica Stroh and Sydney Perry will race in two relays each, and Peri Muftoglu is serving as an alternate.

Gators coach Sherry Sonetti is just as eager to see where the relay teams finish.

“Obviously, it’s wonderful for individual swimmers to see how they’ll perform, but I truly get excited to see the kids interact with each other and support each other, no matter the outcome,” Gateway coach Sherry Sonetti.

“Most people think swimming is an individual sport. It’s not. It’s about the team, and that was my biggest message to our swimmers this year.”

On the boys side, sophomore Drew Holmes qualified in the 200 and 500 freestyles and also will compete in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. He is looking for better results after finishing 10th in the 200 freestyle and 17th in the 500 as a freshman.

“(I learned from last year’s experience) to not let the moment get in your head,” Holmes said. “I have been training for this all season, and I (need to remember) that I have the potential to go as fast as possible.”

Sonetti believes it is possible to see more than one swimmer earn a trip to the PIAA championships on March 10-14 at Bucknell, including Holmes and Raymer in the 500 freestyle, along with Livingston in the 50 and 100 freestyle.

Other Gateway boys swimmers competing in two relays are Gabriel Sha (200 and 400 freestyle), Payton Brown (200 medley and 400 freestyle), Nathan Gabriel (200 and 400 freestyle) and Sam DiPalma (200 medley and 200 freestyle).

Aral Muftoglu and Primo Brodt Jenkins will race in the 200 medley relay.

Sha will compete in the 50 and 100 freestyles, and Brown (200 freestyle) and Brodt Jenkins (100 breaststroke) also will be seeking medals.

Of the 12 Gateway qualifiers, five are underclassmen: Morgan Holmes, Harris and Brodt Jenkins are freshman, and Morgan’s older brother, Drew, and Raymer are sophomores.

“It’s great to think about the future of this team with such young and talented swimmers,” Sonetti said. “Having (five underclassmen qualify for WPIALs), I feel confident Gateway will be able to bring more swimmers to states. That hasn’t happened in a long time.”

“I’m also glad that we have more than a handful of kids who swim on club teams and focus strictly on swimming. It makes a huge difference in performances, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for these kids.”

Robert Scott III is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.


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