A-K Valley freshmen hoping to make splash at WPIAL swimming championships

Tuesday, February 26, 2019 | 9:07 PM

At the start of her first WPIAL swim season in November, Alexis Schrecongost didn’t think she would ascend to the position she is at heading into the WPIAL championships Thursday and Friday at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

The Freeport freshman is seeded second in the 100-yard breaststroke and sixth in the 200 individual medley. While she understands there is pressure on her with where she is slotted, Schrecongost said she’s ready for the challenge.

“I was expecting to be somewhere in the top 15, but I didn’t think I would be all the way up to second,” she said. “I was really happy about that. I am really pumped for WPIALs because I know I can do so much more.”

Schrecongost is one seed ahead of Highlands junior and Fox Chapel Killer Whales club teammate Rachel Blackburn in the 100 breast. Blackburn placed third last year in the 100 breast and went on to take 14th in the event at states.

“Rachel and I are really good friends, but we’re always competitive with each other,” Schrecongost said.

“She’s always been a mentor and a big influence on my swimming.”

Schrecongost is one of several freshmen throughout Class AA and AAA to post top WPIAL times this season. In the Class AA girls 200 IM, four of the top six seeds are freshman, led by Quaker Valley’s Isabel Huang.

“There are a lot more opportunities on club teams to compete at big meets before getting to high school,” Schrecongost said. “It helps make us comfortable. We’ve been to (Trees Pool) many times. But we know the WPIAL meet will be a new experience.”

Fox Chapel’s Zoe Skirboll and St. Joseph’s Sam Wygonik are other freshmen from the Alle-Kiski Valley who are seeded in the final heat of events Thursday or Friday.

Skirboll, who has been making waves in club swimming for several years, debuts at WPIALs as the No. 2 seed in the Class AAA girls 200 IM (2:05.74) and is the No. 4 seed in the 100 breast (1:04.82).

“It’s been a great season so far, and I am really excited with anticipation,” said Skirboll, who also is a member of the Foxes’ 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays seeded fifth and eighth, respectively.

“I am looking forward to the team experience, too, and I want to do as much with my teammates in the relays and get them to states as in my individual events.”

Wygonik will swim the final heat of the boys Class AA 500 free Friday. He is seeded eighth (5:13.35).

On Thursday, he is the ninth seed in the 200 free.

“One of the biggest things about WPIALs for me is the chance to advance to states,” Wygonik said. “I feel I have a very good chance at that if I swim my best.”

In a change from previous seasons, only the WPIAL champion in each Class AAA and AA individual and relay event automatically advances to states. The other bids from the WPIAL will come from times produced Friday and Saturday compared to the times from the other PIAA districts.

The top eight finishers in each event will earn medals.

The AAA competiton begins each day at 10 a.m., and the AA races start at 3 p.m.

Freeport senior Ariana Clark hopes to make it to states in her final trip to WPIALs. She is the top seed in the girls Class AA 100 backstroke Friday.

“At the IUP (Invitational), I placed second (in the 100 back), and I thought there were other girls out there that I haven’t competed against who would bump me down,” Clark said. “When they released the lists, I saw I was first, and I was ecstatic. I didn’t expect that this season.”

Mt. Pleasant junior Heather Gardner, who won the 100 backstroke at IUP, will swim the 100 breast at WPIALs and is the top seed in that event.

Clark also is seeded third (59.94) for Thursday’s 100 butterfly, and she and Schrecongost will be a part of the Freeport girls 200 medley relay and 400 free relay seeded second and third, respectively.

“There is a lot of pressure now, but it’s making me work that much harder,” Clark said. “I really want to go to states.”

Knoch sophomore Zachary Wilson returns to WPIALs and is seeded second in the Class AA boys 100 back. It’s a change from last year when he swam the 100 breast on the second day of competition.

“At the start of the year, I changed some things in the breaststroke, and it wasn’t up to par,” said Wilson, also is seeded 10th in the 200 IM. “We also already had a number of strong breaststrokers on the team. I was swimming backstroke in the medley relay, and that gave me the opportunity to find out that backstroke was really working for me this year.”

Check out a live streaming broadcast of both the AAA and AA championships at tribhssn.triblive.com/broadcast-calendar/2019-02-28/All+Sports/All+Levels/All+Schools/.

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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