6 records fall on 1st day of WPIAL swimming championships

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Thursday, March 2, 2023 | 9:00 PM


Being the smaller classification but featuring more schools, Class 2A had the afternoon session Thursday at the WPIAL swimming and diving championships at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

The smaller classification stole the show on the first day, setting six WPIAL meet records in 12 events.

Last year’s Class 2A girls team champion Mt. Pleasant started the record breaking with the team of Kiersten O’Connor, SaraJo Gardner, McKenna Mizikar and Reegan Brown posting a 1:45.86 in the 200 medley relay.

“Our team had a really great start to the meet,” Mt. Pleasant sophomore Lily King said. “We’re just really excited with how we started off. The girls and the boys really did awesome today.”

North Catholic followed suit when Luke and John Lamb, Matt Littleton and Jackson Kress broke the record for the boys 200 medley relay with a time of 1:35.80.

The fun continued when King won her third individual gold medal by winning the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:47.36.

Before this year, King didn’t swim the 200 free that often.

“This season, my coach (Sandy Felice) has been putting me in it more and we talked about it a lot for the WPIALs and states,” King said. “It would just be better for the team if I swam the 200.”

Indiana’s Preston Kessler won the boys 200 free for the second straight year.

Mapletown’s Ella Menear then captured her fifth WPIAL medal by winning the 200-IM.

Northgate’s Matt Purcell joined the record-breaking parade with a time of 1:51.39 in the boys 200 IM.

Mt. Pleasant’s O’Connor won individual gold in the 5o freestyle before Southmoreland’s Henry Miller stunned the crowd by overtaking Riverside’s Joe Roth in the boys 50 free.

Miller edged Roth, 20.18 to 21.29, breaking another WPIAL record.

After South Park’s Katie Jackovic won the girls 100 fly, Miller came back and broke another record with a 48.87 time in the boys 100 fly.

Why not break two more records in the final two events, the 200-yard free relays?

Mt. Pleasant’s King, Trinity Graft, Gardner and O’Connor posted a 1:35.90 for the girls.

King’s opening leg gave the Vikings a big lead and Graft doubled down on that hitting the pool second.

“Sadly, I added time in my 200 freestyle,” Graft said. “But I think I brought it back in the 200 free relay.”

Graft, King and O’Connor set the WPIAL record last year and they were part of the record-setting team this year.

“It’s amazing,” Graft said. “Knowing that we had a chance to re-break our own record and take first, it was amazing doing that.”

Indiana’s team of Joey Margita, Rey Nunez, Alex Bauer and Kessler came from behind to win the boys 200 free at 1:26.24.

The team leaders in Class 2A after the first day for the girls are Mt. Pleasant (176), Quaker Valley (126) and Northgate (110).

On the boys side, Indiana (150), Northgate (121) and Kiski Area (109) are the leaders.

Earlier in the day, the North Allegheny boys and girls started off the WPIAL 3A championships by leading their respective team races.

The Tigers girls earned 307 points to while the boys lead with a score of 202.5.

Fox Chapel sits in second in the girls rankings with 178 points, while Seneca Valley is third. The Raiders sit 10.5 behind NA on the boys side, with Mt. Lebanon in third.

North Allegheny coach Corky Semler was pleased with his team’s first day.

“It’s a good start. The kids really responded well,” he said. “They were excited and it’s fun to see them swim fast.”

Christina Shi’s fourth consecutive diving gold medal and the Seneca Valley boys trio of Isaiah Clerkley, Jeremiah Laslavic and Sam Hersick helped the North Allegheny girls and Seneca Valley boys get off to strong starts.

Both 200-yard medley relay teams for North Allegheny captured gold medals to start the meet.

Lexi Sundgren (1:51.90) and William Gao (49.42) won gold medals in the 200 free and 100 fly for NA.

“William had a great time leading off our medley (200-yard medley relay gold),” Semler said. “He wins the 100 fly, and he was a great lead-off again in the 200 free relay that allowed us to be in the race.”

Fox Chapel senior Sophie Shao captured two gold medals on the first day, upping her career total to eight, including her fourth straight win in the 100 fly with a time of 54,21 and her second straight 200 IM gold at 2:02.85.

Her teammate, Christian Dantey, won gold in the boys 200 free with a time of 1:40.85.

Seneca Valley’s Haihan Xu, who won a pair of gold medals last year, picked up his second straight 200 IM gold with a time of 1:49.64.

Mt. Lebanon sophomore Sylvia Roy won her second straight 50 free gold medal with a time of 22.72.

“I was looking forward to the 50 freestyle to see Sylvia race against (Kaitlyn Connors) from Upper St. Clair,” said Mt. Lebanon coach Tom Donati. “We’re excited and tomorrow should be special.”

Connors, the Panthers junior, finished second to Roy at 23.23.

The Mt. Lebanon girls are fifth in the girls rankings after Day 1.

Dominic Falcon from Hempfield, who won a silver in last year’s boys 50 free, went one better this year, finishing first at 20.87.

North Allegheny’s girls won the 200 free relay with Seneca Valley edging the North Allegheny boys in that race, 125.45 to 1:25.57, thanks to an outstanding final leg from Xu.

“Seneca’s good and they are very well coached,’ Semler said. “Their anchor (Xu) is just so good. Obviously, you want to win a race like that, but kudos to Seneca for a great win.”

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