Shady Side Academy swimmers set for challenging stretch drive

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Friday, January 24, 2020 | 5:27 PM


The Shady Side Academy swim teams are hoping to parlay a strong finish to the regular season into a successful foray into the WPIAL playoffs.

As of Jan. 20, the girls were 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the section while the boys were 5-1 and also 2-0 in section meets.

“We will finish the season with meets against strong teams,” SSA coach John Landreth said. “Deer Lakes, North Catholic and Northgate will be very challenging matchups, as they are very strong at the top end and improving in depth, which has always been our strength.”

The team has been led by senior captains Maya Groff and Sean Kelley.

“They have been setting a wonderful tone in practices and meets with enthusiasm and attention to the details of swimming fast on a daily basis,” Landreth said. “They are both WPIAL individual qualifiers along with junior Stefan Stratimirovic, who has been very strong in most of his races and is a multi-event WPIAL qualifier.

“Sophomore Alexandra Jaffe (fly, free) has been very strong in multiple events for us, as has sophomore breaststroker Crystal Ma, who made her cut recently.”

The team again possesses depth as seniors and underclassmen have been solid.

Landreth cited a number of swimmers as key contributors, including seniors Will Roberson (free relays), Daniel Xu (distance free), Akshay Amesur (backstroke), Kat Bennett (free, fly), Sophia Marquette (fly, free) and Arusha Nirvan (free, back).

Landreth called junior Emory Anderson (sprint, free) an “amazingly driven athlete.” Other top juniors include Andrew Liu (breaststroke, fly), Ashley Chu (freestyle) and Rory Engel (free,fly).

Sophomore contributors are Eli Naughton (free, back), Jeffrey Patterson (free, breast) and Dev Weiss (free, back). Freshmen include Kevin Johnson (free, back), Elaine Gombos (back, IM) and Chloe Wells (back).

Injuries have taken away from SSA’s depth recently.

“We have been hit by illness a bit, losing contributions from sophomore WPIAL relay swimmer Kira Meyers (free) and sophomore Ted Wong (breast) and first-year swimmers Emma Gardner (free and breast) and Samuel Tan (distance free),” Landreth said. “Their imminent return will certainly help our chances against those aforementioned section rivals.”

Overall, Landreth is optimistic that, as in the past, the Indians will shine once the WPIAL playoffs begin.

“I have been very impressed with this team’s resilience in the face of consistent challenges during practice to swim at race speed,” he said. “I believe this will benefit us dramatically in the coming weeks. I am somewhat concerned that our boys, as defending WPIAL champions in the 200 free relay, have yet to qualify in that event, but I have a feeling that our strengths may lie in different events this year.

“Our girls relays have strong options for multiple podium finishes at the WPIAL meet. I will certainly look forward to watching that develop in the coming weeks.”

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