Belle Vernon boys place sixth in AA standings at PIAA swimming and diving

Saturday, March 17, 2018 | 9:49 PM

Led by two runner-up finishes from freshman Ian Shahan (100-yard butterfly, 100 backstroke), a third in the 100 breast and a 10th in the 200 individual medley from junior Robert Spekis, an eighth from the 400 free relay and an 11th in the 200 medley relay, the Belle Vernon boys racked up 91 points and finished sixth in the AA team standings Saturday at the PIAA swimming and diving championships.

They were the top WPIAL finishers by six points over seventh-place Northgate, the WPIAL team champion.

Spekis finished in 58.31 seconds Saturday in the 100 breast championship finals to secure third. The 2018 WPIAL champ in the event came into his finals heat sixth and dropped down from a 59.35 in the prelims.

“I worked really hard this year to get my times down, and it really paid off,” said Spekis, 12th in the 100 breast as a freshman and 30th last year.

Spekis said he used Friday — his 10th in the 200 IM after an initial fourth seed — as motivation for Saturday.

Shahan said he was pleased with his second in the 100 back that included a time drop to 50.55 from a prelim swim of 51.70.

“It feels amazing to come here as a freshman and do as good as I did,” Shahan said.

He and Spekis capped the two days with senior Tucker West and junior Alex Miller on the 400 free relay. The quartet's eighth came in 3:20.06.

“This means a lot because we're such a close group,” Shahan said. “We're great friends who wanted to do this for each other.”

Joining the Belle Vernon boys in the evening session Saturday was Greensburg Salem junior William Crites. His prelim swim in the 100 breaststroke yielded a trip to the consolation finals, where he finished sixth in the heat and 14th overall in a time of 1:01.49.

Four ended up being the magic number Saturday for Mt. Pleasant sophomore Heather Gardner.

The WPIAL champion in the girls 100 breast came to the PIAA championships seeded fourth.

She finished fourth in the prelims with a time of 1:04.61.

In the finals, Gardner again finished fourth, but she bettered her own school record with a time of 1:04.21.

“I am really happy,” she said. “I didn't go down any places and got my best time. This year (at states) was a lot better than last year.”

Gardner added the fourth in the 100 breast to her runner-up finish in the 50 free from Friday. Last year, she took 11th in the 50 free and tied for 12th in the 100 breast.

Also competing Saturday was Derry Area sophomore Caleb Rullo, who placed 29th (50.37) in the boys 100 free.

The Mt. Pleasant girls 400 free relay of Heather Gardner, sophomore Cally Hixson, senior Lynn Gardner and junior Emily Bednar turned in a 20th-place finish in a time of 3:48.08.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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