Inspirational Quaker Valley swimmer motivates teammates

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Sunday, February 18, 2024 | 11:01 AM


The Quaker Valley swim program honored its seniors Feb. 8 at the Sewickley Valley YMCA.

One girl, Mia Hrabovsky, received notable recognition for her contributions to the program over the past four years.

Hrabovsky, 18, has Down syndrome. But it hasn’t stopped her from developing into an integral member of the section-winning QV girls team.

“Mia Hrabovsky motivates athletes to do their best,” said the Quakers’ first-year coach, Mercedes McCarthy, a strong force on the swimming scene in Western Pennsylvania. “You can never say ‘I can’t’ with Mia on deck.

“There isn’t anything that girl will say no to. She has a disability, but she never misses a practice.”

When Hrabovsky isn’t swimming, she’s doing another sport to keep herself strong and healthy.

“Mia may not be as fast in sports, but she can still participate to the fullest extent,” said Lucia Hrabovsky, Mia’s mom. “She’s involved in Special Olympic sports such as swimming where she competes against other athletes who have differing abilities. She definitely shines there. The regional swim meet is held at Pitt and CMU, then qualifiers can compete at PSU and for the national Special Olympic team. We hope to see Mia compete at a national level one day.”

Swimming is an integral part of the Hrabovsky offspring’s DNA.

As the youngest of three children in the family, Hrabovsky has been in the water almost from birth. She had a feeding tube placed in her after she was born, which was removed after open heart surgery. She learned to swim at 6 months of age and has been swimming ever since.

She has an older brother, Kyle, who swam for Quaker Valley and an older sister, Annie, who was a diver for the Quakers. Her brother went on to swim at George Washington.

Hrabovsky’s experience in the pool is extensive.

“I swam at the YMCA, then with the Sea Dragons and now with QVHS,” she said. “I really like being part of a team. I swam with the summer team at Woodland Swim Club.

“I enjoy swimming at practice, but really like competing at meets and cheering on my teammates. My teammates are the best.”

Prior to senior day at QV, McCarthy asked the program’s upperclassmen to name the events in which they would like to participate.

Hrabovsky answered with her three preferred events: the 200 intermediate medley, 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke.

“Yes, I really like those three,” she said. “My favorite is the 200 IM. I feel good that I can swim it. I like swimming all the strokes. I really like the butterfly, too.”

The Quakers defeated Hopewell, 95-73, that night and followed up with a 120-70 win Feb. 12 at West Allegheny to clinch first place in Section 2-2A with a 7-0 record. Hrabovsky joined in on the team’s victory celebration.

“There’s no stopping this kid. She only has a success column; she doesn’t have a failure column,” McCarthy said. “She reminds you that you have nothing to complain about. She’s a tough cookie; she’s very motivating.

“Life is hard enough. Can you imagine the strength it takes for her to be able to swim?”

Hrabovsky currently is working on her post-graduation plans. The QV senior applied to “Rock Life” at Slippery Rock, which is a four-year program for students with disabilities. She may start there in the fall, if accepted, or take a gap year and attend classes and volunteer.

“I have really enjoyed swimming with the Quaker Valley swim team,” she said. “I will really miss it, my coaches and my teammates.”

Hrabovsky loves school and really enjoyed her pop culture class this year. Her favorite time of the day is when she takes part in Partner’s P.E.

She likes all her teachers, but her two favorites are Jason Brindza and Gregory Vecchi.

Hrabovsky was named homecoming queen this past year and has participated in several extracurricular activities at QV for four years, including the swim team, track and field, marching band and Best Buddies program.

“She was surprised when she was named homecoming queen,” her mom said. “She couldn’t believe everyone voted for her.

“Mia has been so well-accepted at Quaker Valley. She is well-liked and has wonderful friends who are true friends. It’s wonderful to live in a small town with wonderful people.”

Hrabovsky enjoys playing video games, volunteering with Light of Life Ministries and hanging out with her dog, Maggie.

She also participates in Three Rivers adaptive rowing and competes in swimming and pickleball with the Special Olympics.

The Quaker Valley girls have been led this season by seniors Emily Connors, Rena Gilligan and Kate Hines, who have been complemented by junior Margaret Getty, sophomores Alexa Westwood and MaKenna Kamnikar, plus freshmen Lydia Kilpela and Arianna Batina.

“We are looking forward to a strong finish to a great season,” Getty said. “We expect a strong showing and results at the MAC championships, WPIALs and states, for both individual events and relays. The relays I’m on have had consistent improvement and our position is strong for the postseason. I had a personal-best time in the 200 freestyle, and I am excited to push it even further in postseason competition.

“I have grown up with several of the seniors on the team and I’m going to miss them. As the season closes out, I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors.”

Rounding out the QV girls swim squad are Hrabovsky, senior Katie Blackmer, juniors Ruby Krotine, Gia Kuyler, Grace Marraffa, Ruby Olliffe, sophomores Margaret Burns, Kendra Hines, Katherine Linge, and freshmen Anna Fuener, Madeline Horton, Oleksandra Kharyto­nova and Harper LaLomia.

Blackmer, Olliffe, Krotine and Kuyler are the team’s top divers.

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