West Xtra: Moon senior set for a big season

HIGH SCHOOL SWIMMING

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Moon Area senior Alexis Mitcheltree can swim the length of a football field with the fastest in the WPIAL and state.

On Nov. 14, she signed a letter of intent to continue her swimming career at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Mitcheltree earned her scholarship with many achievements, but the 200-yard freestyle race at last March's WPIAL championship meet stood out to her. As she reached for each pool-wall to make her turns, she was driven by those who were already turning.

"Seeing the different competition off the walls will definitely push you," Mitcheltree said. "Throughout the race, I was trying to stay with everyone ... and then in the last 50 [yards] I was trying just to pull out the win."

Mitcheltree was in the last heat of the 200-yard freestyle event, but she hadn't allowed apprehension to sap her energy. Somewhere in the last 75 yards of the race, she accelerated to an all-out sprint.

Mitcheltree finished third that day, behind North Allegheny's Kally Vanderbilt and Oakland Catholic's Shannon Haberman. But Mitcheltree's time was 1:53.01 -- even faster than the Moon record she had set earlier in the year.

The accomplishment made the 200-yard free at the WPIAL meet one of Mitcheltree's favorite races.

"I think it was getting third place and also breaking the [Moon] record," Mitcheltree recalled. "Accomplishing two things in one race is pretty amazing."

In case two accomplishments weren't enough, Mitcheltree also competed in the 100-yard freestyle race at the WPIAL meet. She placed fifth with a time of 52.78 seconds.

Mitcheltree's WPIAL results qualified her for states. In the finals for the 200-yard free, she placed 16th. In the 100, she placed 13th.

Moon Area coach Zac Gebhardt noted that Mitcheltree is the Tigers' top swimmer, but that she's continually training to improve.

"[Mitcheltree] swims for Upper St. Clair Swim Club," he said.

The Upper St. Clair club is under the regulation of USA Swimming, the organization which supervises the Olympic trials.

"She trains with them 10 to 11 months out of the year," Gebhardt said. "She does two hours in the afternoon, one to one-and-a-half hours in morning, and three hours on Saturdays."

Gebhardt added that Mitcheltree also lifts weights at a local gym and participates in a "dry land" training regimen, out of the pool exercises designed to further strengthen swimmers.

"Alexis leads the fastest lane," said Gebhardt about Mitcheltree's influence on the Moon team. "She'll lead by example. If we're doing a main set, she's never one to sit out.

"Younger swimmers see her and learn that if you want to be as good [as her] you have to work hard."

Gebhardt added that Mitcheltree is also always on deck during meets to cheer on her teammates.

Likewise, Mitcheltree will surely be missed as she heads to Eastern Michigan next year.

"I just felt so comfortable there," she said. "The team was so much fun and I think it's going to be a great college experience."

Mitcheltree also noted that she was looking forward to working with Eastern Michigan coach Peter Linn.

Among the other schools under consideration by Mitcheltree were Georgia Southern, St. Francis University, Illinois State University and Oakland.

But before Mitcheltree heads to Ypsilanti, she is eager for her senior season at Moon. When asked for her favorite Moon Area swim team memory, she was not ready to give one.

"Not yet," she said. "I'm sure as the season goes on there will be many."

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