The 1988 Girls’ Swim Team had much to prove after the previous year’s team missed winning the State Championship by tenths of second.  The graduation of Michelle Chow and Celeste Makiel left a void in leadership and many events.   But the girls responded under the leadership of captains Anne Spaeder and Laura Hanlon.  Returning senior WPIAL qualifiers Kathleen Lynch, Jill Straffin, Jeanne Truschel, All-American Anne Spaeder, and Laura Hanlon combined with junior qualifiers Caroline Cadek and All-American Melanie Morgan brought experience and maturity to the team.  Three freshmen, who added qualifying times to the team, were Keri Killinger, Lauren Lindblad, and Melissa Varlas.  

The 1988 Gator Team won the PIAA Championship by fourteen points over second place Eastern power Dover.  At the WPIAL Championships the Gators made a run at Bethel Park only to lose by one point!  The Girls’ were Section V champions and won the Westminster Relays. The NISCA Power Point rankings placed the 1988 Team fourth in the country.   All-American honors went to Melanie Morgan who ranked first in the country in the 100 Freestyle and fourth in the 50 Freestyle.  Her times established new WPIAL and STATE records.  All-American honors went to Anne Spaeder in 200 Individual Medley in which she was ranked fifteenth in the country and she was Honorable Mention All-American in the 100 Butterfly.  The All-American 400  Freestyle Relay, ranked eighth in the country, was comprised of Laura Hanlon, Keri Killinger, Anne Spaeder and Melanie Morgan.  The 1988 girls established five new Gateway school records which still stand today.  Two each by Anne Spaeder and Melanie Morgan and the 200 Medley Relay of Laura Hanlon, Jeanne Truschel, Melissa Varlas and Keri Killinger.  The 1988 Girls Swim Team responded to the previous year’s disappointment with a vengeance!

                        THE DUAL MEET SEASON……11-2

The dual meet season was the first challenge for the Gators Girls who wanted to be a contender for the WPIAL and PIAA Championships.  The “Old Swamp” continued to create logistical situations as the forty-five girls and boys trained together in a pool able to accommodate many less bodies.  With no diving board, the Gator away meets started as a 0-13 deficit.  Even with the diving situation and eight new freshmen, the team bonded and dominated most of the teams as their scores indicate.  Two perennial powers Bethel Park and North Allegheny were the only losses with the girls competing to the maximum in each event in order to make up the thirteen point deficit.  Those two meets brought the girls together as a team and their confidence to compete against the best rose to a new level.  The Girls, undefeated in the section, won the Section V title for the fourth year in a row and qualified ten girls to the WPIAL Championships.

                                    DUAL MEET RESULTS

Gateway 45     Mt. Lebanon 31

Gateway 45     North Hills 31

Gateway 93     Butler 76

Gateway 46     Penn Trafford 30

Gateway 78     North Allegheny 91

Gateway 75     Bethel Park 90

Gateway 65     Moon 11

Gateway 43     Upper St. Clair 39

Gateway 50     Penn Hills 26

Gateway 48     Plum 28

Gateway 64     Oakland Catholic 12

Gateway 90     Norwin 79

Gateway 50     Franklin Regional 26

                        THE WPIAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Having ten girls competing in nine out of ten events put the Gators in the hunt for their first WPIAL title.  But even swimming in most cases their personnel best time and qualifying six girls in six events to the STATE meet, Bethel Park eked out a one point victory…127-126.  (Bethel Park’s diver scored one point in the diving competition!).  Listed are the results of the meet and the * indicates a PIAA State qualifier.  These great swims established the Gator Girls as a contender for the State title.

200 Medley Relay* comprised of Laura Hanlon, Jeanne Truschel, Melissa Varlas, and Keri Killinger was seventh.

200 Individual Medley*…Anne Spaeder finished first for the fourth consecutive year.

50 Freestyle*…Melanie Morgan finished first.

100 Butterfly*…Anne Spaeder finished first and* Melissa Varlas finished fourth.

100 Freestyle*…Melanie Morgan finished first with a new record and* Keri Killinger finished Seventh.

500 Freestyle…Caroline Cadek placed seventeenth.

100 Backstroke…Laura Hanlon placed seventeenth.

100 Breaststroke…Jeanne Truschel placed twelfth

                               Kathleen Lynch placed twenty-fifth

                               Lauren Lindblad placed twenty-sixth.

400 Freestyle Relay*…Laura Hanlon, Keri Killinger, Melissa Varlas and Melanie Morgan placed first.

                        THE PIAA CHAMPIONSHIP MEET

The final challenge came on March 11th and 12th in State College.  The Gator Girls swam with confidence and the mental focus of true champions.  To compete with Bethel Park and eastern power Dover, the girls needed to focus on their preliminary swims in the morning sessions in order to place in the top twelve for the evening finals and score team points.  Each event proved a challenge to each girl knowing that last year’s meet was decided by a combined five tenths of a second in two events.  In the first event, the 200 Medley Relay, the Gators were seated eighteenth and got everyone psyched up setting the competitive tone for the team by dropping two seconds from their WPIAL time and finished seventh in the finals to give the Gators fourteen points.  In setting a Gateway school record, this relay of Laura Hanlon, Jeanne Truschel, Melissa Varlas, and Keri Killinger started the belief that the Gators were not to be denied.  The Lady Gators dominated the first day’s events!!  Anne Spaeder took first in the 200 Individual Medley and followed with a second in the 100 Butterfly.  Melissa Varlas improved her 100 butterfly swim to place tenth.  In winning the 50 Freestyle, Melanie Morgan set a new State record.   With a large point lead going into the second day, the Gators continued to roll with Melanie Morgan winning the 100 Freestyle setting another State record and freshman, Keri Killinger, improving her times to finish ninth.  In the final event, the Gator All-American 400 Freestyle relay of Laura Hanlon, Keri Killinger, Anne Spaeder, and Melanie Morgan finished second and brought home a PIAA Championship!!!

1988 WPIAL and PIAA State Qualifiers

Keri Killinger**, Kathleen Lynch*, Anne Spaeder**, Melanie Morgan**, Jeanne Truschel**,

Laura Hanlon**, Caroline Cadek*, Melissa Varlas** and Lauren Lindblad*

  • WPIAL *
  • PIAA **

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