Sheets siblings fuel Hampton swim teams

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Saturday, January 14, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The Hampton boys and girls swimming teams seem to be headed in different directions, but they have one thing in common.

Senior Ben Sheets is the top swimmer for the rebuilding two-time WPIAL Class 2A champion boys team, and his freshman twin sisters, Lainey and Libby, are off to fast starts for the burgeoning girls program.

Ben Sheets, who has committed to Division I Queens (N.C.) College, is striving for WPIAL titles in the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke after placing second in both events last season. He broke the Hampton pool record in the 100 backstroke earlier this season with a time of 52.6 seconds.

“He’s been doing great,” Hampton coach Morgan Zweygardt said of the elder Sheets. “He’s started out faster than he was last year. I’m really excited because he’s been trying really hard and doing more than he’s done in years past. I’m excited with where he is right now.”

But the boys team, hit hard by graduation and transfers, remains a work in progress. The Talbots started 1-4 in dual meets, including a 113.5-53.5 loss to Northgate in their Section 3-2A opener.

Sheets is doing his part. He was undefeated this season entering the Talbots’ Jan. 9 meet at Gateway and has already posted quicker times in his two main events, the 200 IM (1:59) and 100 backstroke (52.6), than all of the 2021-22 regular season.

“I’ve been going faster than I’ve ever gone,” he said. “Overall, I think I’m training at a really high level.”

His younger sister, Lainey, is showing promise as one of the top freshman swimmers in WPIAL Class 2A.

She has posted WPIAL qualifying times in six events, including her top event, the 200 IM. The WPIAL championships are scheduled for the first week in March.

“She’s been having a great season so far,” Zweygardt said. “She is definitely one of the better (freshmen) that we’ve had. She has an incredible feel for the water. She’s natural, but she also works incredibly hard.”

Said Lainey, “I think I’m doing very well. There are obviously things I would like to improve on as the season goes, but I think overall I’m doing pretty good.”

Ben Sheets said Lainey is more advanced as a ninth grader than he was.

“She says that to me all the time and it’s really hard for me to admit it,” he said, “but she is actually a lot better than I was.”

Lainey’s fraternal twin, Libby, isn’t far behind. Libby has posted a WPIAL qualifying time in her best event, the 100 backstroke, and is on the verge of qualifying in the 100 freestyle and 200 free. The sisters have helped the Hampton girls team, overshadowed in recent years by their WPIAL champion boys counterparts, to a strong start in their first season in Class 2A. The girls, who dropped from Class 3A, opened 3-1-1 in dual meets and avenged ‘21 losses to Mars and North Hills with convincing victories.

“It’s really fun to see them come into their own,” Zweygardt said. “I think what’s great about the girls team right now is that they are swimming for each other. They want to do well as a team. It’s not individually driven. It’s very team oriented.”

The Sheets siblings were drawn to the water at an early age. Their father, David, is in his 22nd season as women’s swimming coach at Duquesne University and is a three-time Atlantic 10 coach of the year.

“We grew up around the pool,” Libby said. “We grew up with a lot of college swimmers, so it was always like we wanted to swim. There hasn’t been a lot of pressure from (our dad) to swim. We’ve been allowed to try a lot of different sports. But swimming is the one that stuck for all of us.”

Her older brother, however, nearly took a different route. Ben admits basketball was his first love growing up and he quit swimming a couple of times over the years. He didn’t start taking the sport seriously until eighth grade, and that was only because his parents prohibited him from trying out for the middle-school basketball team until his grades improved.

His grades started going up, and his swim times went down.

“I wasn’t able to play basketball in eighth grade, so I started focusing on swimming,” he said. “I figured out I was going to be good at swimming … and now I’m sticking to it.”

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