Josh Matheny

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Upper St. Clair’s Josh Matheny won his third straight title in the 100-yard breaststroke during the PIAA Class AAA swimming championships.

Josh Matheny is a swimmer without a pool.

The Upper St. Clair junior is attempting to continue to train for the Olympic Trials, which are scheduled for June 21-28 in Omaha, Neb.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the country, his high school is closed through April 14. So are Canon-McMillan and Chartiers Valley, out of which his club team, PEAQ, operates.

By Gov. Tom Wolf’s order, all high schools and universities within Pennsylvania as well as fitness centers and gyms like Spencer YMCA in Bethel Park and the Jewish Community Center in Scott Township, are closed in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19.

In addition, the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado is shuttered.

“With school canceled, we were going to send him there,” said David Schraven, Matheny’s high school and club coach, “but because it just closed, too, everybody who was there, they’ve all flown home. Even Katie Ledecky.

“It’s a struggle to find a place to swim. I imagine that’s what it is like for everybody else. We don’t know what we’ll do now, but Josh can pick up and go elsewhere.”

Matheny may end up traveling to Florida to visit relatives. Regardless of USA Swimming canceling all scheduled meets and events until April 30, Matheny could commence open water training.

“We don’t want it to come to that, but if all the pools are shut down, then one way or another we’ll find a way,” Schraven said. “They can’t shut the Gulf of Mexico.”

Despite an abbreviated PIAA Class AAA championship meet, Matheny could not be stopped from winning his third consecutive title in the 100-yard breaststroke.

The PIAA championship meet was divided into two sessions of prelims and finals between March 11 and 12, but the second day of competition was curtailed. Times recorded during the morning session’s preliminary heats counted as finals.

Matheny earned the gold medal by virtue of his 54.43 time, which was nearly two seconds off his record-breaking swim of a year ago.

“Josh had a nice swim, but he wasn’t swimming as hard as he could have because we planned for him to go harder in the finals,” Shraven said.

“We understand their calling the meet, but it would have been nice to finish it because we all were already there. But conversely, we knew there was a possibility they would pull the plug on the meet. It really didn’t effect Josh because he’s fast enough to back off and still win.”

Matheny did not place, in the 200 IM. He was disqualified for an apparent one-handed touch while transitioning from the butterfly to the backstroke leg of the race.

“It was a tough call, but those things happen,” Schraven said. “Because of his training and as fast as he is on his walls, it’s conceivable to miss or someone sees it differently. Obviously, he wasn’t happy, but it’s a reminder to make sure and be careful of things like that. I’d rather it happen here (at states) than at Olympic Trials.”

Like Matheny and his American counterparts, other nations are scrambling too.

Japan, the host country, hopes to hold its trials April 1 in the pool Tokyo plans to use for the Summer Games scheduled to start July 24. According to Schraven, some countries are in the process of postponing their trials. There has even been talk of canceling the event.

“My gut feeling on the Olympics is that it’s definitely up in the air,” Schraven said. “Based on conversations I have had with people that know more than I do, they are nervous. There’s a feeling they may not go on and that we could be in trouble.”

That’s troublesome for the veteran Olympians, but not necessarily for Matheny, who is only 17.

Matheny could compete in the Junior Pan-Pacific Championships to be held in late August in Hawaii if he does not make the Olympic team.

“Obviously it would be disappointing for him if the Olympics were canceled or he did not make the team, but he’d be eligible for other things,” Schraven said of Matheny, an Indiana University recruit.

“Really, we were not planning on taking a break or having any extended time off but it’s a day-to-day thing. A lot of everything is wait and see right now.”

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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