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Livingston, freshmen standouts ready to lead Gateway at WPIAL swim championships

Michael Love
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Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune Review
Gateway vs Plum Swm Meet Thursday, February 14 at Gateway Gateway’s Olivia Livingston, Girls 400 yard freestyle relay
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Gateway freshman Andrew Holmes will compete in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle at the WPIAL championships.
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Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune Review
Gateway vs Plum Swm Meet Thursday, February 14 at Gateway Gateway’s Olivia Livingston, Girls 400 yard freestyle relay

Gateway junior Olivia Livingston is a WPIAL veteran and a district champion with four individual titles over her first two appearances at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

On the flip side, Gators freshmen Summer Raymer and Andrew Holmes will get their first taste of the WPIAL championships Feb. 28 and March 1 as they do battle with the district’s best.

“Having an older sibling who has competed at WPIALs, Drew’s been looking forward to his opportunity for a couple of years,” Gateway coach Jonathan Moore said.

“Summer has been ready to swim at WPIALs for a while. I am really looking forward to seeing how both will perform.”

Holmes and Raymer produced qualifying times in several individual events, but both will concentrate their efforts in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles.

Holmes posted season bests in the 200 (1 minute, 48 seconds) and 500 (4:58) against Plum in the final dual meet of the regular season last Thursday.

Raymer, tapered and rested in preparation for the Pitt Christmas meet, posted her top times of the season in the 200 (1:59.07) and 500 (5:17.97) Dec. 7 in a tri-meet against Bethel Park and Latrobe.

Raymer’s time in the 500 has her listed in the top 10 in Class AAA on the WPIAL performance list at WPIAL.org.

The PIAA, in the offseason, altered its requirements for qualification to the state championships. As part of the changes, only the WPIAL champion in each individual and relay event is guaranteed a spot at Bucknell University.

The other spots will be determined through the times recorded at WPIALs and compared with those from the other district championship meets to arrive at a field of 32 for each event.

Livingston posted a season-best of 23.49 in the 50 free against Upper St. Clair on Dec. 11, only a couple of days after competing at Junior Winter Nationals in North Carolina.

She added a top time of 52.05 in the 100 free against Franklin Regional on Feb. 1.

“Olivia is on track, just as she’s been the past couple of years. She’s really focused in on WPIALs with the goal of doing well at states again,” Moore said.

Livingston hopes to make a return to states to defend her back-to-back PIAA titles in the 50 free. She also is gunning for the crown in the 100 free after placing second last year and in 2017.

“Practices have been going pretty well, and I’m excited to see what I can do this year,” Livingston said.

The girls 200 medley relay was on the outside looking in for WPIALs heading into the meet with the Mustangs, but the quartet of Jess Stroh (backstroke), Raymer (breaststroke), Livingston (butterfly) and Sydney Perry (free) posted a qualifying cut to secure its place with the other five Gateway relays in the WPIAL field.

Stroh (100 back), Payton Brown (200 and 500 frees), Conor Farren (100 free) and Nathan Gabriel (50 free) attempted to qualify for WPIALs at a last-chance qualifier Saturday at Franklin Regional.

The meet was to conclude past the deadline for this week’s edition.

Gabriel competed in the 50 free at last year’s WPIAL championships.

Moore said the boys relay competitors for WPIALs are Gabriel, Brown, Holmes, Farren, Jack Echegaray, Aral Muftuoglu, Gabriel Sha, Bryce Sukel and Sam DiPalma.

Swimming on girls relays at WPIALs are Livingston, Perry, Stroh, Raymer, Mia Schirm, Amanda Pugliano, Lauren Harper, Peri Muftuoglu and Paige Bernardi.

Pugliano, a senior, will make her fourth WPIAL appearance in as many seasons.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at [email protected] or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.