Westmoreland athletes of the week: Belle Vernon’s Ian Shahan, Mt. Pleasant’s Heather Gardner
School: Belle Vernon
Claim to fame: Shahan broke his own meet record set a year ago in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 52.46 seconds at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association meet Saturday at Derry. Last year, Shahan finished in 53.12. He also won the 100 butterfly in 51.77.
“I have to give it to my coaches and my competition. My coaches really got me where I am right now and my competition really pushed me during my races,” Shahan said.
How does it feel to help guide your team to another WCCA Class AA boys title?
It feels good. We’ve been working really hard as a team all year. We want to go for the section, as well.
What does it mean to you to break the record in the 100-yard backstroke again at the WCCAs?
It really shows how far I’ve come from last year to this year time-wise. It’s great to build off of for WPIALs and states.
What do you need to do to defend your WPIAL Class AA title in the 100-yard backstroke?
I want to continue to work as hard as I can. I need to keep training and keep the yards up.
What’s your pre-race routine?
I like to focus on my race. Focus on what want to do and need to do. I make sure I work the little things like technique.
How have you grown as a swimmer being a part of Team Pittsburgh Elite Aquatics?
I have a lot of talent there and good friends. My club coach has been improving my stroke, and I’m dropping time left and right.
School: Mt. Pleasant
Claim to fame: Gardner broke her own meet record set a year ago in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1 minute, 4.3 seconds at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association meet Saturday at Derry. Last year, Gardner finished in 1:05.57. She also won the 50 freestyle in 23.84.
“I was very happy with both of my swims. I didn’t think I would do well since my coach didn’t taper or rest me for this meet. I was very surprised with my performance. I had an amazing time in 100 breaststroke. I was very happy with my swim,” Gardner said.
How does it feel to help guide your team to a WCCA Class AA girls title?
It was really great. Honestly, none of us girls thought we had a chance. Last year, we had 16 girls and this year we only had nine. Halfway through the meet we realized we were tied. We were happy to get back-to-back championships for that meet.
What does it mean to you to break the record in the 100-yard breaststroke again at the WCCAs?
It felt amazing. Going in I didn’t think I could do it. I was really happy to lower the record time, and I’m very honored.
What are you working on to make sure you end up on top of the podium at states?
I’m working my butt off by doing more weight training and doubling up practices just so I can get yards in.
How is this season different than your first two seasons?
It’s just more training than any other year. My freshman year, I didn’t know what to expect, and now my coaches are just pushing me to do more. Cyber school has really allowed me to get more training in so this year I can do better.
What is your earliest memory in the pool?
I started to swim at 8 years old, and my high school coach has coached me the whole time. She knows how to push me and knows what I’m capable of doing.
— Andrew John
Andrew John is a freelance writer.