Hempfield’s Zoey Wilson fought through injuries to carry on family swimming tradition

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019 | 8:43 PM


One of Zoey Wilson’s goals for this season was to follow in her brother’s footsteps, but her season was plagued by injuries.

Zoey Wilson, a senior on the Hempfield girls swimming team, specializes in the 200-yard freestyle. Her brother, Zane, had a decorated swimming career for the Spartans from 2013-17.

Zane holds the team record in the 100 backstroke, was twice named all-state honorable mention in 100 back and 200 IM and was an All-American in the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay.

“He’s a great brother and role model,” Zoey said. “He has great morals, stuck up for himself and showed great sportsmanship. He has taught me so many life lessons, and I am grateful to be his little sister.”

Zane no longer swims competitively, but he stays near the water as a midshipman and mechanical engineering major at the U.S. Naval Academy. He was inspired to join the military by his grandfathers, who served in the armed services.

“When (Zane) left for Plebe Summer, it was a rough adjustment for me,” Zoey said. “I was so used to having him by my side. I realized I can’t always rely on him, but I know he always has my back.

“I wanted to continue the Wilson legacy. Zane was a great leader. He made every swimmer feel included. I wanted to keep that alive and make an impact. I wanted to make sure everyone knows they are important. I hope the Wilson name never dies out years down the road.”

While Zane opted for the military, Zoey plans to continue her studies and swimming at St. Francis (Pa.) as an exercise physiology major. She will go for her doctorate in physical therapy.

“Making my college decision was very difficult,” she said. “I had two great schools with great reputations, coaches and swim teams. The academics was the deciding factor. St. Francis is known for its physical therapy program, and they have the entire exercise physiology and physical therapy program right on campus.

“Also, my childhood dream has always been to become a D-I swimmer. Coach Kyle (Almoney) and the girls left a great impression on my visit. They’re not just focused in the pool but in their academics as well. The swim team had the highest GPA in the entire NCAA last spring. I know this is where I’m supposed to be, and I am unbelievably excited.”

Zoey, like her brother, was a four-year competitor at Hempfield. Unfortunately, it was an injury-riddled time for her.

“It has been a rough four years,” Zoey said. “We reached a point where we thought I may never swim again. I had two concussions in eighth grade, and its effects lasted until the summer before 11th grade.

“I went from being a pretty decent age group swimmer to barely being able to swim a 50-yard event without getting a headache. I’ve put in a ton of work in the pool and weight room to make up for time lost. It’s crazy to see how far I’ve come.”

Zoey qualified for WPIALs four times and for states as a junior and senior. She has been a WPIAL and Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association medalist and was an eight-time WPIAL medalist.

This season, Zoey suffered a thoracic sprain and a back sprain at her team’s first meet and was in recovery mode thereafter.

“Going into WPIALs, I really didn’t have any specific goals,” she said.

Zoey placed fourth in the 200 freestyle and eighth in the 100 freestyle at the WPIAL finals.

Other WPIAL medalists for Hempfield were senior Gavin Mayo, a North Carolina recruit who won the boys 50 freestyle and took third in the 100 backstroke; and sophomore Brian Wilson, who tied for seventh in the 50 freestyle.

The Spartans’ 200 freestyle relay (Mayo, Will Falcon, Todd Wilson, Brian Wilson) also took third place. The 200 medley relay (Mayo, Todd Wilson, Nolan Steeley, Anthony Peila) placed fourth.

Mayo is an All-American in the 50 freestyle.

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