Tom Donati has been around high school swimming since the mid-1980s, but the Mt. Lebanon coach never witnessed a 100-yard backstroke race like the one he watched during the 2023 WPIAL Championships.

On March 4 at the University of Pittsburgh’s Trees Pool, his two swimmers, Sylvia and Vivian Roy, finished first and second to claim the gold and silver medals.

“Obviously, two sisters going 1-2 in the same event is pretty awesome. I don’t know if it’s ever been done before,” he said. “I am so happy for them and they are so happy for each other. It’s the last time they would be swimming together side by side.”

That’s because Vivian is a senior. She will swim at the University of Buffalo next fall while pursuing a major in biology. She is interested in research and working in a lab after earning a master’s degree.

“I am excited about going (to Buffalo). The team is a great fit. The coaches are great and everybody on the team seems super nice. I am excited to have a new opportunity because I have been swimming here for the past 12 years.”

The Roy sisters started swimming for the Mt. Lebanon Aqua Club at age 5 at the behest of their mother, Alexis Fedorchak. She was the The Almanac 1992 Female Athlete of the Year as well as a multiple WPIAL and PIAA state champion. She also went on to excel at Indiana University, which produced Olympians such as Mark Spitz and Lilly King.

“Since our mom swam, we were doing lessons and everything. We jumped into the program and it stuck. Once we learned how to swim, we loved it,” said Vivian.

Donati predicts Buffalo will adore Vivian.

“She’s a stud,” he said. “Buffalo is getting a great swimmer and Vivian’s set up for a good situation. The academics are perfect and she will be swimming under great coaches. She is just going to get better and better. She’s strong as a house, works hard, has desire and a great attitude. So I expect her to go much faster.”

In the WPIAL, the only ones faster than Vivian are her sister in the backstroke and Kaitlyn Connors of Upper St. Clair in the 100-yard freestyle. Vivian clocked a 55.60 in the back while Sylvia won in 53.84, a shade shy of the WPIAL record of 53.59 and the PIAA mark of 53.08. Vivian’s time in the free was 51.19 while Connors won in 50.64.

“I am definitely happy with my own accomplishments,” Vivian said. “I don’t really think I let (Sylvia) get in the way of that much.”

Vivian also noted that she and Connors have been good friends since they traveled to the Olympic Training Center with the Allegheny Mountain Swim team as youths.

Of her free race she said, “I was closer than I expected. I haven’t done the 100 at WPIALs before. So I was happy with my time. I definitely look forward to racing (Kaitlyn) because we are good friends.”

Vivian and Sylvia relish racing against each other because they are friends, not just sisters and because their signature swim is the backstroke. They train together. They lift together in the weight room.

“We push each other,” Sylvia said. “(Vivian’s) the person I compete with the most here. When it comes to meets, it’s really cool seeing us winning events together and being there for each other. We are going to be proud of each other no matter what.”

“Sylvia and I are in the same boat,” Vivian agreed. “We prefer the backstroke. It’s our main stroke and the freestyle comes second. It just seems to come naturally for us. It’s what we have been doing since we were younger.”

Vivian added that it’s nice to race Sylvia “all the time” and have another girl at practice whom she “can try and keep up with” but the competition is not a negative thing.

“It’s good to always have someone to race and share the podium with at a bunch of meets,” she said.

There was a time when Vivian used to beat Sylvia. When she was in high school and Sylvia was still in middle school, Vivian was faster. Sylvia took off as a freshman, dropping times and winning WPIAL titles in the 50 free and 100 back as well as medaling in the PIAA championships.

“At first it was something that I struggled with and had to get used to but now it’s kind of like I don’t really have a problem focusing on my individual times and what’s good for myself,” Vivian said. “I am proud of her no matter what she achieves and does. I am happy she is as fast as she is and I know that she is happy for me and my individual goals.”

Individually, Vivian hoped to lower her times to 55 in the back and 51 in the free as well as medal at the state competition to be held March 16-18 at Bucknell University. Then she will focus on college.

“Being an NCAA qualifier would be amazing but I think definitely I want to continue improving and working hard and see what happens.”

A lot has happened already for Sylvia. In December, she qualified for the 2024 Olympic Trials to be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. She earned her spot with a cut time that was exactly to the one hundredths.

“I don’t know if I was expecting that but I was really, really excited about that. It’s something I am looking forward to. I’m not sure if Olympics is realistic. I have a long way to go. Sure it’s a goal and would be really cool but I just don’t know.”

With two more years of high school remaining, Sylvia has more immediate objectives, like winning more medals and perhaps breaking district and state records. She is just shy of the marks in both the 50 free and 100 back.

Sylvia will always remember her first medals though.

“Last year meant a little more because I was a freshman and it was my first year doing anything like that,” she said. “Last year, I had really, really big drops and this year was a little less. So it was less of a big deal. Because it was the first ones, last year was more exciting, way more exciting, but I was still thrilled with this year.”

Sylvia was delighted with the backstroke especially the 1-2 finish with her sister.

“Obviously, we wanted that last year but this year when it actually happened, just looking up at the scoreboard was so cool. I was so happy to do this with my sister.”

“I definitely look up to her a lot, especially this year her being a senior, a leader on the team,” Sylvia continued. “She is someone that can give me advice because she has done this all before and she knows what’s going on. So it’s good to have her there.”

It’s good, too, that Lebo has the Roy sisters as bookends on its relay teams. They helped the 200 and 400 free relays to bronze medals and the 200 medley relay to a fourth-place finish.

“Relays are awesome,” Vivian said. “I love that we go first or last. It’s nice having two super fast ends to the relays and just knowing that the start gets off well and the anchor finishes fast, too.”

Donati added, “They are both stars. It just so happens that Sylvia is the bigger star but they both are great leaders, special kids and very close sisters.”

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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