Limited time in pool doesn’t keep Aquinas swimmer Schirra from making WPIALs

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Friday, March 8, 2019 | 7:33 PM


There were plenty of reasons for Sam Schirra not to swim this season.

The most glaring reason is his high school, Aquinas Academy, did not field a swim team. Beyond that, Schirra had a starring role in the school play, a rendition of “Pride and Prejudice,” a commitment that would absorb plenty of his time deep into November.

On top of those obstacles, Schirra suffered a stress fracture in his leg while running cross country in the fall.

Still, Schirra swam. And once the Crusaders’ lone competitor made his decision to do so, there wasn’t much stopping him as he qualified for the WPIAL Class AA championships in two events.

“I got off my crutches from my injury in mid-November,” he said. “The play was right at the end of November, so that was nice. Then, the day after the play ended, I participated in my first meet of the season.

“Because of the injury and the play, I didn’t have a lot of time to swim before that. But I got in the water and got back into it. I didn’t really have a chance to start training fully until mid-December.”

The junior made the trip to Butler, where he was permitted to swim in an open lane during the host school’s home meet. In his lone meet in February, Schirra qualified for the WPIAL championships in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100 butterfly.

At the WPIAL title meet at Pitt’s Trees Pool, Schirra was clocked at 23.71 seconds in the 50 free, good for 19th place. In the 100 fly, his time of 59.27 placed him 21st.

“I was really excited to compete. Frankly, I feel like I took it for granted before, making it to WPIALs, but that’s just my pride,” Schirra said. “It struck me how with my broken leg, my times weren’t exactly getting to where I wanted them to be. That was tough. But it was great. I qualified in two meets and got to compete, and I’m thankful for that.”

While he said he would like to improve his times, Schirra kept an important streak alive by qualifying and participating in the event. He has done so in all three of his high school years, and he helped keep a tradition alive that began with his brother, Jake, nine years ago, and continued with his other brother, Ian. Three of the Schirra brothers have competed at WPIALs while representing Aquinas Academy.

Schirra’s oldest brother, Jake, holds the school record for the 50 free. And now with swimming season behind him, the youngest of the three knows what will keep him motivated for next season.

“My brother, Jake, started the team nine years ago,” he said. “And seeing his record there that he set back then, I’ve really wanted to get under that time and break his mark.

“I didn’t do it this year. I missed it by .13 seconds. He’s really kind about it. He texted me the day of the meet and said he’d be overjoyed if I broke his record. So I’m hoping to match or beat that mark next year.”

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