Kiski Area, Burrell swimmers, divers excited to leave mark at WCCA meet

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Thursday, January 26, 2023 | 9:33 PM


Ten records fell at last year’s Westmoreland County Coaches Association swimming championships at Derry.

Swimmers and divers from 14 county schools hope to produce records and reach the medals podium as they gather Friday and Saturday at Derry for the late-January tradition that sets the stage for WPIAL championship meets just a month away.

“We kind of had our lineup put together a couple of weeks in advance, and with every meet, the kids were swimming better and better, practicing hard, training hard and pushing each other,” Kiski Area coach Ryan Berberich said. “We had to turn our lineups in last Friday, and we didn’t want to do it until after our meet last Thursday so we could have one more chance to swim our fastest and get the best possible seed times.

“The kids have so many big goals, and the county meet is right up there. They are excited to swim fast and test themselves against some of the best. It’s a really nice meet because these kids all know each other. It is great to see them all together at one meet rooting on each other and supporting each other. Doing well at the county meet can really set you up for bigger things down the line.”

Diving kicks everything off at 5 p.m. Friday, and Kiski Area freshman Lacey Ray hopes to make an impact at her first WCCA meet. She is one of two freshmen (along with Penn-Trafford’s Maria Piraino) in a girls field hoping to unseat defending champion Hannah Polosky, a senior from Latrobe.

There will be a new boys diving champion as Ligonier Valley’s Nick Roddy, the 2022 WCCA gold medalist, WPIAL Class 2A champion and PIAA runner-up, graduated and is competing at IUP.

Swimmers hope to make a splash Saturday starting at 10 a.m.

“I am much higher seeded than I was last year, and I am happy with that,” said Kiski Area sophomore Amara Sterlitz, who is seeded third in the 100-yard butterfly, fourth in the 500 freestyle and is a part of the second-seeded girls 200 medley and 400 free relays.

“I’ve worked hard and improved a lot, and it is showing.”

Cavaliers senior Parker Sterlitz, who will swim at West Virginia, holds the WCCA record in the boys 500 free at 4 minutes, 44.26 seconds. He is set up as the No. 1 seed with a time 4 seconds faster than his 2022 mark.

Sterlitz also is the No. 1 seed in the 200 free (1:47.33).

Fellow Kiski Area senior Levi Hansen, a Cincinnati commit, is a close second seed in the 200 free with a time of 1:47.50. He won the event last year, and Sterlitz was second.

Hansen also is the fourth seed in the 100 fly (54.28).

Junior Landon Seman is seeded fifth in the 500 free (5:14.92).

“When I saw my name in the top five and top 10 of my events, I was super excited,” said Seman, also the seventh seed in the 100 free (50.99).

“I am confident that all the kids around me and above me on the psych sheets I can beat. My times are really close to all of them. We as a team are ready, and we know a lot of the fastest swimmers in the WPIAL are again in this meet.”

The boys 400 free relay secured a No. 1 seed, and the 200 free relay is seeded second.

The top six finishers in each swimming and diving event earn medals.

Junior Eliza Miller last week set a Kiski Area girls school record in the 500 free (5:07.93). The previous record stood for 24 years, and Miller will take that mark into Saturday’s event as the No. 1 seed.

The WCCA record is 4:58.32, set in 2015 by Norwin grad Kathryn Painter.

Miller captured WCCA titles last year in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke. She will look to defend the 100 breast title as the No. 1 seed (1:06.73).

Cavaliers junior Abby King is seeded fourth in the 200 free and 100 breast.

“I had a pretty strong meet last Thursday, and it helped me move up in the seedings,” said King, who also hopes the two second-seeded girls relays can top No. 1 seed Mt. Pleasant.

The Kiski boys and girls teams both dropped to Class 2A for this season and next, and Mt. Pleasant is the defending WPIAL Class 2A girls team champs.

“We’re excited to race Mt. Pleasant,” King said. “They’re one of our top competitors.”

Sophomore Paige Kunkle also is at the center of the two top girls relays, and she heads into the county meet seeded third individually in the 200 IM and 100 back.

Burrell’s WCCA contingent is led by senior David Matovick, the seventh seed in the 500 free (5:15.27) and 10th seed in the 200 free (1:56.34).

Junior Chloe Walton checks in as the No. 8 seed in the 200 free (3:07.16) and No. 11 seed in the 500 free (5:49.13).

“David and Chloe have some nerves because they did see the psych sheets,” Burrell coach Samantha Callan said. “I think there also is a lot of energy that comes with those nerves. I know that I will be confident in them when they get behind the blocks. They should get that adrenaline rush.”

“The teams always find this meet fun and energizing. It gives us a chance to swim against triple-A teams, something we don’t get to do all that often. This is a great group of kids, and they are ready to get after it on Saturday.”

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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