Pine-Richland swimmer driven to make name for himself in breaststroke

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Sunday, February 13, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Athletes find motivation in many different forms, and Pine-Richland swimmer Matthew Carper’s stems from a former competitor.

Watching and swimming against former Upper St. Clair standout Josh Matheny, the national record holder in the 100 breaststroke, gave Carper someone to try to emulate.

“Going up against him and seeing him go to the Olympic trials inspired me to try and be the kid that everyone knows around the state as the fastest breaststroker,” Carper said. “It is my one goal for swimming.”

So far, Carper, a junior, has made strides. He ranked third in WPIAL Class 3A in the 100 breaststroke as of Feb. 9 with a time of 58.86. He was less than a second behind Seneca Valley’s Haihan Xu’s 58.07 and Upper St. Clair’s Will Perham’s 58.41.

Carper also has WPIAL qualifying times in the 100 freestyle and 200 IM and is part of three relay teams with WPIAL qualifying times.

What events he’ll participate in at WPIALs is still being determined, but the 100 breaststroke is a lock. He competed in the 200 medley relay, 100 breaststroke and 200 IM last year at a WPIAL meet truncated due to the pandemic.

Carper finished in the top 10 in the breaststroke at WPIALs last year and is excited to be near the top of the list again now.

“My coaches have put a lot of effort into my breaststroke, like working on technique,” Carper said. “I’ve been working a lot on the tiny things to make them habit. That’s the biggest part of my improvement to where I am now.”

Those tiny things can be broken down into each part of what makes a good lap from start to finish and the details within them.

“I’d say the start is most important,” Carper said. “If you don’t get a good start then you’re giving your opponents a head start. You want to have a quick stretch over the pool. One thing I sometimes struggle with is the wall. Sometimes I don’t get a fast turn or I don’t hit the wall the way I like to. That’s something I’ve been working on over the years and it’s helped me improve my time.”

Along with Matheny, Carper also looks to some family members for inspiration. His uncles, Ken and Jeff Wincko, and aunt, Laurie Wincko, swam at Bethel Park and Notre Dame. His uncles were 100 breaststroke swimmers.

Carper got started in swimming at a young age and it wasn’t long before he took to it.

“I was involved in a bunch of other sports, but swimming stuck,” Carper said. “It started becoming something I really liked when I was around 10 years old. That’s when I started feeling the team effort and how fun it was to swim with other people. I enjoyed competing, winning and losing and how to deal with it.”

Carper is a three-time WPIAL qualifier and would’ve qualified for states last year, but the field was limited by pandemic restictions. He’s aiming to qualify this year and put together a top 10 finish. He’s also looking forward to the WPIAL meet returning to a more normal feel after the smaller field in 2021.

“My freshman year there were a lot more people that made it, and it was very fun because we brought our entire team to the pool,” Carper said. “I don’t know if we will be able to do that this year, but the atmosphere was amazing with everyone cheering for everyone. Last year was OK, but it didn’t have that same level of energy and excitement.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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