Mt. Pleasant swimmer Gardner chases more gold at WPIAL championship meet

Wednesday, February 26, 2020 | 9:01 PM

For the third consecutive season, Mt. Pleasant senior swimmer Heather Gardner is heading toward two gold medals at the WPIAL Class AA championship meet Thursday and Friday at Pitt.

Gardner is seeded first in the girls 50-yard freestyle in 24.07 seconds and 100 breaststroke (1:04.61).

“I am very excited to see how well our team is going to do,” she said.

In the 50 freestyle, Gardner’s freshman sister, SaraJo, could join her on the podium. SaraJo (25.36) is seeded fifth.

The two also are on the top-seeded 200 medley relay team (1:50.71) with freshman Reegan Brown and sophomore Ashlyn Hornick.

In addition, Heather Gardner anchors the first-seeded 200 freestyle relay (1:39.91). The team includes Brown, senior Cally Hixson and Hornick.

Viking coach Sandra Felice is optimistic both relays, plus the 400 freestyle team, will advance to the PIAA meet March 13-14 at Bucknell.

“Having my sister swimming alongside me is so much fun,” said Heather Gardner, a Liberty recruit. “She is a strong swimmer (who) has a strong mindset like me.”

SaraJo said she looks up to Heather and is pushed by her.

“I am very excited to get to swim my first year with my sister,” SaraJo said.

On the boys side, Belle Vernon junior Ian Shahan is out to defend two titles in which he also is reigning PIAA champion.

Shahan ranks first in the 100 butterfly (50.23) and second in the 100 freestyle (46.71).

“I usually try not to worry about seeds, but there is some pressure,” he said. “The added pressure helps me better prepare.

“I am looking to put up good times leading up (to) states.”

In Class AAA, Norwin senior Ethan Tulenko is favored in the boys 50 freestyle (21.01) and 200 freestyle (1:41.81).

“There is pressure because I am a top seed, but, at the same time, it shows how far I’ve come,” he said. “I always liked the 50 free, but have started to like the 200 free as well.”

Tulenko, who plans to compete for George Washington next season, took sixth in the 50 freestyle in 2018 before sitting out last season to compete for his USA Swimming club.

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