After celebrating WPIAL title, Kiski Area swimmers turn attention to PIAA meet

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Tuesday, March 12, 2024 | 3:50 PM


For Abby King, it was like mother, like daughter at the WPIAL Class 2A championships March 1 at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

King’s mother, Daina (Cleveland) King, helped the 1991 Apollo-Ridge girls basketball team win the WPIAL Class 2A title and advance to states.

Daina was on hand at Trees Pool to watch her daughter become a WPIAL champion, too.

King, a Kiski Area senior, along with junior Amara Sterlitz, freshman Leah Kunkle and senior Eliza Miller, captured the WPIAL title in the 400-yard free relay with a time of 3 minutes, 35.29 seconds. It was the icing on the cake for the Cavaliers girls’ first WPIAL team title.

“I felt accomplished already, but winning a WPIAL title with my teammates made it even better,” said King, also the No. 4 seed in the PIAA Class 2A girls 100 breaststroke after a third-place finish in the event at WPIALs. “I was very proud to help bring it home.”

The relay and team celebrated but quickly refocused for this week’s PIAA championships at Bucknell. The 400 relay is the No. 1 seed.

“We knew it was going to be tough to win the WPIAL (team) title, but everyone contributed to make it happen,” King said. “We came in with that hope because of what we had coming back and the depth we had. Now, we are excited for states and ready to see what we can do there.”

The Kiski Area girls 200 free relay, runner-up at WPIALs, is the fifth seed for states.

Class 3A swimming and diving kick everything off Wednesday and continue Thursday.

In all, Alle-Kiski Valley swimmers will have more than 50 preliminary swims over the four days.

Several boys and girls individuals and relays are expected to be featured in the finals. Knoch junior Giona Lavorini hopes to be one of them. She is the top seed in the girls Class 2A 100 breaststroke after capturing her first WPIAL championship at Trees Pool.

She was the only one in the event at WPIALs to finish under 1:02 as she recorded a career-best 1:01.90.

The WPIAL record is 1:01.61 set by former Highlands standout Bailey Bonnett in 2017.

Lavorini built up to the title as she was sixth in the 100 breast as a freshman and third last year.

She went into states well seeded the past two years, but it’s a new ballgame for her as the top seed. She has familiar company at the top as rival Peyton Scott, a junior from Indiana and the defending PIAA champion, is seeded second.

King is fourth, and Greensburg Salem sophomore Allison Stinnett is fifth.

“There is some pressure for states considering I am the top seed,” said Lavorini, who also is seeded fifth Friday in the 200 individual medley.“I know there are girls who are seeded under me who want that gold medal as much as I do. It’s also great motivation to do what I can to keep (the seed place) and win another title. I have the experience of what to expect at states.”

Shooting for PIAA gold as No. 2 seeds are Fox Chapel junior Christian Dantey in the boys Class 3A 200 free (1:39.45), Foxes junior Owen Howell in the 200 IM (1:52.38), the Freeport girls 200 medley relay (1:47.84) in Class 2A and Freeport junior Kira Schrecongost in the 100 butterfly (55.37).

Joining the swimmers at Bucknell is Fox Chapel junior diver Jackson Hagler, who hopes to improve on an eighth-place finish from states last year. It is his third overall trip to Bucknell as he was 19th in his PIAA debut in 2022.

Hagler competes in the 11-dive meet at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“I know I have my dives, and it just comes down to consistency,” Hagler said. “I know what to expect at states. It’s an incredible group of divers who will be competing.”

He punched his ticket to states with a runner-up finish to Seneca Valley junior and now two-time WPIAL champion Isaiah Clerkley.

“I was really happy with my WPIAL performance,” Hagler said.

“My front two and a half pike I starting hitting in practice and warm-ups, but I had never hit it in a meet. That was the meet I finally hit it really well, and it was a big help to me finishing as well as I did. I knew that Isaiah was a big favorite to win it again. I just wanted to make sure that I dove my best.”

Schedules, heat sheets and other information about the PIAA swimming and diving championships can be found on the PIAA website.

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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