Relay team leads Gateway swimmers at WPIAL, PIAA meets

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Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The Gateway girls 400-yard freestyle relay team was handed the fifth seed at the PIAA Class 2A swim championships at Bucknell.

As it turned out, the Gators finished fifth with a time of 3:38.79, beating their prelim time (3:41.65) by more than three seconds.

The medal-winning relay team consisted of juniors Mallory and McKenna Brown, freshman Gianna Laurenti and senior Morgan Holmes.

“The girls 400 free relay did very well,” coach Glenn Raymer said. “They wanted to be in the top eight and bring home some hardware. I couldn’t be happier for them. They swam well.”

McKenna Brown advanced to the PIAA finals in the 50 free and 500 free. Her twin sister Mallory qualified in the 200 free.

“McKenna and Mallory both did personal-best times at WPIALs and were elated to make the PIAA meet,” Raymer said. “The relay was a culmination of a pretty good year for both of them.”

The 400 free relay team posted a third-place time of 3:38.42 at the WPIAL finals, nine seconds better than its seed time. They were the only Gateway medalists at the state competition.

Holmes, a Division II Bloomsburg commit, tied for 11th with Saucon Valley freshman Julia Cort in the 100 backstroke with a time of 59.19.

Holmes took third in the 50 free at WPIALs with a time of 24.00 seconds and was seeded fifth for the PIAA finals. She placed 10th at the state championships.

She also was seeded 14th in the 100 back (59.37) at WPIALs.

“Morgan swam well, placing in the top 16 in both of her individual events and on both relays,” Raymer said. “She was happy to finish her high school career with that fifth-place relay finish.”

Holmes is the younger sister of former WPIAL champion and PIAA competitor Drew Holmes, now a freshman at Bloomsburg.

The WPIAL medalist 200 medley girls relay team, consisting of Holmes, senior Ayva Harris and the Brown twins, finished 15th in 1:53.09 at the state finals.

The Gateway girls had seven swims in the WPIAL Class 2A meet with two relays and five individuals.

McKenna Brown was the 18th seed in the 500 free (5:25.47) and the 19th seed in the 50 free (24.77), while Mallory Brown was seeded 19th in the 200 free (1:59.54).

The leading swimmer at the PIAA Class 3A championships for the Gateway boys team was sophomore Hunter Raymer, who ended up 13th in the 500 freestyle with a season-best 4:38.82 time. He also placed 26th in the 200 free.

Raymer was the WPIAL champion in the 500 free in 2022 and finished third this year.

“I think the team did pretty well during our dual meets all season, and we had eight swimmers qualify for WPIALs so I thought that was pretty exciting,” he said. “I was super happy to represent Gateway at WPIALs and the PIAA championships again like last year. I’m looking forward to next swim season because our relay teams have a good chance to qualify for states.

“I had a solid season for the most part but didn’t hit some of the times that I wanted to achieve. I was sick going into the WPIAL meet and did not feel my best. I did hit a best time in my 200 freestyle but still didn’t reach my goals I wanted to accomplish.”

Raymer, 16, stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 175 pounds. He has been swimming since age 6.

“Swimming is my main sport, and I put all focus and dedication into it by working hard every day at practice and working outside of the pool to stay fit and strong,” he said. “I’ve always had a passion for swimming, which I still have to this day.”

Three Gateway swimmers were first or second alternates for individual events at WPIALs. They were Mallory Brown (100 breast, 1:09.91), freshman Gunner Raymer (200 IM, 1:58.44) and senior Primo Brodt-Jenkins (100 breast, 58.88).

Brodt-Jenkins opted to end his swim season to concentrate on other activities, including Gateway’s spring musical.

A total of 34 athletes competed for the Gators this year, including 19 girls and 15 boys.

“I was very pleased at how the team did overall and our successes in the postseason,” said Raymer, Gateway’s first-year coach. “Most swimmers had personal bests or season bests in their events.

“I am looking forward to next year as I see the potential for the team to improve overall and possibly qualify more individuals for WPIALs.”

Coach Raymer is the father of Hunter and Gunner Raymer and recent graduate Summer Raymer, a multi-time WPIAL medalist and PIAA qualifier who led two QV relays that set school records. She recently finished her first year of swimming at Division I Youngstown State.

“Coaching Hunter and Gunner was an absolute blast,” said their dad. “Getting to be a part of their development as young men and athletes and watching them strive to reach their goals is truly wonderful. They are fierce competitors who always bring their best for the team.

“Both will finish out their swimming seasons with their USA Swimiming club team at Speedo Sectionals in Virginia.”

The Gators’ rookie head coach has past head coaching experience at Latrobe and Elizabeth Forward. Raymer served as a Gateway assistant for two years with former coach Sherry Sonetti, who stepped down after the 2021-22 season.

“The last two years as an assistant, I was able to coach Summer as well,” coach Raymer said. “It was a pleasure to be a part of the last years of her high school career.”

Hunter Raymer has relished his time in the pool with his siblings.

“One of the things that I’ve loved the most is swimming with my brother,” he said. “Gunner is so versatile in so many events. He had a solid season as a freshman, and I know he will be breaking some school records in the next few years.

“I also had one year with my older sister Summer. She’s taught my brother and I a lot and has always been our biggest cheerleader on the sidelines and has motivated us to be the best.”

This was the first year the Gateway girls team competed in Class 2A. The Gateway boys remained in 3A.

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