Meets motivate Greater Pittsburgh Allegheny Swim Club members

Sunday, December 19, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Luka Stratimirovic was happy to be at practice Wednesday night at the Olympic Health & Swim Club in Penn Hills.

Stratimirovic took a year and a half off before returning to the competition with the club team at Pitt and the Greater Pittsburgh Allegheny Swim Club. He was one of 11 GPAC swimmers scheduled to compete at the 59th annual Christmas Meet hosted by Team Pittsburgh Elite Aquatics Dec. 16-19 at Trees Pool.

Being able to compete at a high level again has reinvigorated Stratimirovic, who swam in high school for Woodland Hills.

“I think it’s good to have a goal,” Stratimirovic said. “That’s why I do the meets. It helps keep me motivated to practice. It keeps me happy to have something else to do besides school. I’ve been happy since I started competing again.”

Eleven GPAC swimmers including Stratimirovic competed at the event. Other qualifiers were Stefan Stratimirovic, Allheim DeVan-Bey, William Rice III, Rosalie Van Deusen, Kelly Morrissey, Vivian Jeffries, Elowyn Jeffries, Emily Ruperto, Samantha Schork and Casey Lippert.

Stefan Stratimirovic, who is 18 and also on Pitt’s club team, has continued to evolve as a swimmer as he gets older. After starting competitive swimming at 13, the 5-foot-8 Shady Side Academy graduate wanted to try to find an edge on his competition. Stefan is hoping to qualify for another national meet in Florida in April 2022.

“The main thing I started to add was working out with weights and doing dry land,” Stratimirovic said. “I think, personally, because I’m shorter than most swimmers, I figured being more muscular would give me an advantage to catch up.”

DeVan-Bey, who also swims for Obama Academy’s high school team, is excited for the Christmas meet to find out how he measures up. While he doesn’t currently hold any WPIAL cuts, DeVan-Bey is close to hitting a few qualifying standards.

“I’m trying as hard as I can in practice,” DeVan-Bey said. “I’m trying to prepare myself the best I can to reach my goals.”

Schork, who is 12 and lives in Monroeville, was excited to see a higher level of competition at the meet. Swimming at GPAC had given her a lot of teammates to work with that helped her push to get faster times.

“Usually, if someone is better than you or more positive, sometimes that helps you to improve,” Schork said. “You are in a more positive environment.”

Schork said she trains 10 hours a week and mentally is able to find ways to stay focused on getting better at every practice.

“Usually, I set a lot of goals,” Schork said. “Sometimes, I try to focus on something or an up-tempo song so I can think of things other than swimming for 10 hours a week.”

Luka Stratimiovic said it is nice being able to swim with his club team outside of the college environment. There is more space for him to train. He feels like he’s training harder now than he ever has.

“Over the weekends, I come here and it’s a lot less crowded,” Stratimiovic said. “It helps me focus more on my stroke. Sometimes there’s not even enough room at Pitt to swim in the evenings. I have to wait for an opening.”


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