South Xtra: Lebo sophomore has high hopes at WPIAL championships

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When Mt. Lebanon High School swimming coach Tom Donati first met Brian Ramsey, he wasn't certain the prospective swimmer would have much of a future in the sport as a member the Blue Devils.

"I honestly didn't think he was going to make it," Donati said. "He was so uncoordinated, and he wasn't developing as a swimmer."

What Donati hadn't counted on was Ramsey's determination to change perceptions about himself.

"A lot of the credit goes to him for putting in the hard work and for his determination," Donati said. "He was determined to excel."

So Ramsey has and as a sophomore is the second-fastest qualifier in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 59.3 seconds entering the first day of the WPIAL swimming championships at Trees Pool on the University of Pittsburgh campus. The meet winds up on Friday.

Ramsey gravitated toward swimming as he acknowledged he wasn't too proficient in any other sport. Besides, swimming is apparently in his genes as his father played water polo at a high school in California.

"[Swimming] is just something I decided to try, and I decided to stay committed," he said. "I got more involved in it, and it just took off from there."

Donati has had a firsthand look at Ramsey's development, and has enjoyed watching him progress.

"When he came to high school last year, he was maybe the third or fourth best breaststroker on the team," he said. "When he bought into what we wanted him to do, he became the best breaststroker on the team.

"He's swimming four seconds faster than what he swam last year, and I think he's only going to get better. He's a true disciple of the sport, and he's in the pool from 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. three days a week and from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the afternoon.

"He also does dry-land training for an hour each evening. On Saturday, he's practicing for three hours. He works hard and believes in what he's doing. He has the attitude of a champion."

He has the determination of a champion, too.

"This season, my time [at the start of the season] in the breaststroke was a 1:02 and I've dropped it to 59.3," he said. "I think I'm capable of doing more, and I'm hoping to get down to 57."

Although he has two more years of high school competition remaining, Ramsey has his sights set on what he'd like to study in college.

"I'd like to study aerospace or petroleum engineering," he said. "And I know I want to swim in Division I."

Donati likes Ramsey's chances to swim at the collegiate level.

"This is one of those kids who makes coaching enjoyable," he said.

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