Westmoreland high school athletes of the week: Belle Vernon’s Ian Shahan, Mt. Pleasant’s Heather Gardner

Tuesday, March 3, 2020 | 7:12 PM

Ian Shahan

School: Belle Vernon

Sport: Swimming and diving

Class: Junior

Claim to fame: Shahan, who has won five WPIAL events in his career, won the 100-yard freestyle for the second year in a row at the WPIAL Class AA swimming and diving championships Feb. 28 at Pitt’s Trees Pool. Shahan broke his own WPIAL record this season with a time of 44.68 seconds. Last season, Shahan set a WPIAL record with a time of 45.48. Shahan won the 100 butterfly a day earlier with another swim that broke his WPIAL record with a time of 49.02.

“I thought I did pretty well. I knew my training would have to be more intense by working the little things. I think it all paid off in the end,” Shahan said.

What does it mean to you to have two record-breaking performances at the WPIAL meet?

It means a lot. It shows that I’ve come a long way from the beginning of the season and where I started from at the beginning of my high school career. It means a lot to break my records again.

What do you think you need to do to capture your second straight PIAA 100 free and 100 fly titles?

I need to work on my little things. I need to work on my underwaters and my breathing. If I hit my training pretty hard in the next two weeks, I should have a good shot at back-to-back titles at states.

What does it mean to you to have won five WPIAL events throughout your high school career?

It shows that coming from my program we definitely have a lot potential. It really helps my teammates as they strive to hit their goals and be the best they can be.

How do you think you feel compared to where you were this time last year?

I feel like I’m ahead of the curve. With all the training from the summer, I’m pretty far ahead.

What’s your earliest memory of being in the pool?

I don’t remember how old I was, but I used to swim in the bathtub.

Heather Gardner

School: Mt. Pleasant

Sport: Swimming and diving

Year: Senior

Claim to fame: Gardner, a Liberty recruit, won her third straight WPIAL title in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:04.87 at the WPIAL Class AA championships Feb. 28 at Pitt’s Trees Pool. A day earlier, Gardner won her third straight title in the 50 free with a time of 23.62.

“I was pretty happy with my last performance at WPIALs. To finish with six gold medals is great. I had the goal of breaking the meet records, but I did get gold medals. I have goals to win at states, as well,” Gardner said.

What made you decide to commit to Liberty?

They have a great swimming program. I went to visit back in May. They have a beautiful campus, and they have a sweet team. The pool is absolutely amazing. I would like to major in Criminal Psychology.

What does it mean to you to capture three WPIAL titles in the 100 breast and 50 free?

It’s an honor. I love swimming and going to WPIALs. Each one will have a special meaning behind them when I look back at my high school career.

What do you think you need to do to finally grab the elusive PIAA titles in both events?

I’m going to work on my technique and practice hard. I placed second in the events to girls that were seniors. Even if I’m the top seed going in, you have to work hard. There are going to be a lot great athletes, and you need to get your hand on the wall first.

How do you think you feel compared to where you were this time last year?

I feel great even though I had better times at WPIALs last year. I was tapered last year, and I wasn’t this year. My coach is changing things a little here to make me a little more prepared for states.

When you graduate, what do you want to be remembered for and why?

I want to be remembered for trying your best and giving it your all. Working hard and just finishing your races as fast as you can so you can come out on top. I want them to know hard work does pay off eventually.

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