Shady Side Academy’s Maeve Kelley is picking up where she left off

Saturday, February 20, 2021 | 9:01 AM

Shady Side Academy sophomore swimmer Maeve Kelley wasn’t sure how this season would go.

After the coronavirus pandemic disrupted her regular training schedule last March, Kelley came into this season not really knowing what to expect. She couldn’t train at all from March until June and then couldn’t restart her regular training schedule until the beginning of this January.

But, even with the lack of training, the two-time WPIAL champion is picking up right where she left off last season.

In just her second race of this season, Kelley clocked the fastest time of her career in the 500-yard freestyle and broke the five-minute mark for the first time with a 4:58.93 against Knoch on Feb. 2, which is the top-time in the WPIAL by 21 seconds.

A week earlier, Kelley swam a 1:56.85 in the 200 freestyle against Deer Lakes and locked up the top spot in that event as well.

“I was definitely pretty nervous about how this year would go because I only had my normal practice schedule since the beginning of January,” Kelley said. “So, I think it’s going a lot better than I expected. I’m really glad it’s heading in the direction that it is.”

As a freshman at Winchester Thurston last season, Kelley won WPIAL titles in the 200 free (1:55) and the 500 with a free (5:06.20). Even though she transferred schools and is now involved with a full team after swimming independently last season, Kelley is thriving in her new environment.

She stuck to a dryland workout routine that involved running three days a week and stayed in shape with other workouts.

It paid off in the pool at the beginning of the season, but after she clocked the best time of her career, she was already looking forward to what was next.

“I was really really excited because that was my first time going under five minutes,” Kelley said. “But I came to practice the next day like wanting more. I’ve come this far, so now what else can I do? That’s kind of my mindset.”

Kelley’s confidence in the pool this season didn’t come right away and before their first meet of the season, she was a little apprehensive about competing because she didn’t know if she was truly ready.

“I was really nervous the first time I swam because it was the first meet after 10 or 11 months of not racing at all,” Kelley said. “So, I was definitely really nervous because I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or how it was going to go. I think after I got that race under my belt, I definitely felt more confident.”

Shady Side Academy swim coach Caroline Colville believes that is one thing that makes Kelley special. The fact that even though she was nervous, she was able to step into the pool one week later and set a new pool record, along with breaking five minutes for the first time.

“This isn’t someone who’s had three seasons of swimming the 500 and then finally broke five minutes,” Colville said. “She was someone who was weary of that five-minute threshold and she just trusted me, she trusted the process and threw herself into it and it came together on the second try of her season.”

It’s taken a lot of work to get to this point for Kelley. She can’t make up for the training time she lost this offseason, so she’s found other ways to make up for it in the water. So far it’s paid off as she’s started to focus on what she can control.

“I’ve been really focused on my technique and my turns and just focusing on the little things,” Kelley said.

Kelley has her sights set on another WPIAL championship, but she’s also looking forward to returning to the state meet.

Last season, she was on her way to the pool when the event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and she’s ready to take advantage of another trip.

“I think it adds a little more pressure though too,” Kelley said. “Now I only have three possible state meets that I can compete at so it kind of adds that extra pressure that I have make each one as perfect as I can.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .


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