Belle Vernon’s Shahan, Mt. Pleasant’s Gardner earn silver at PIAA swim championships

Friday, March 16, 2018 | 9:48 PM

LEWISBURG — Several teams traveling from the north on Route 15 to the PIAA Class AA swimming championships at Bucknell on Thursday morning faced some eventful moments with icy road conditions.

The road was temporarily shut down, and arrival times were delayed. As a result, the PIAA delayed the start of the morning preliminary swims.

Belle Vernon was one of the teams affected.

“It took us two hours to get here, when it normally takes us 20 minutes or so (from the hotel),” coach Robert Reda said. “We slid half way down the hill. We were pretty shaken up and frazzled. We didn't get as good of a warm up as we wanted.”

But Reda said his swimmers did the best they could to get focused and put together a strong first day.

Belle Vernon swam three times, and freshman Ian Shahan led the way with a second-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly.

The WPIAL runner-up swam a finals time of 50.70 seconds, faster than his seed time from the prelims (50.83).

“It feels amazing,” said Shahan, who will swim the 100 backstroke (third seed) and the 400 free relay Saturday. “I didn't do as well as I wanted. I wanted first place, as everyone does, but to even be on the podium is great. I worked hard for it, and it shows.”

Adam Mahler, a junior from Holy Redeemer in District 2, captured the state title in a time of 49.96.

“Any competition is good competition in my book, especially someone like (Mahler),” Shahan said. “That's the same with (Riverside senior) Dean (Kralic).”

Kralic, the WPIAL champion in the 100 fly, finished tied for sixth (51.91).

Belle Vernon junior Robert Spekis was seeded fourth in the 200 individual medley. He placed 10th in the prelims (1:59.80).

He returned for the consolation final and maintained 10th (1:58.89) while also dropping a second from his prelim time.

Spekis was 30th in the 200 IM last year.

Both Spekis and Shahan started the day joining senior Tucker West and junior Alex Miller on the 200 medley relay that placed 11th (1:39.40) and dropped time from a prelim swim (1:39.60).

“I'm extremely happy with the guys so far,” Reda said. “This is the first time at states where we've come back at night in all of our events. We had a really good showing in both sessions. You can't ask for anything better than that.”

Spekis will be back Saturday as the No. 2 seed in the boys 100 breaststroke, while the 400 free relay is seeded 10th.

Mt. Pleasant sophomore Heather Gardner, the WPIAL girls 50 free champion, hoped to bring home more gold at states.

She finished her prelim swim with a 23.59, just two one-hundredths of a second behind Grove City junior Emma Wilson.

In the finals, Wilson edged Gardner again, this time 23.30 to 23.43.

“I was a little disappointed I didn't get my best time (23.25 at WPIALs),” Gardner said. “But second in the state is really good. I'm honored to get second. You go into the 50 hoping you hit everything on point and swim as fast as you can. Even .01 can make a big difference.”

Gardner finished 11th in the 50 free last year.

She will return to the pool Saturday where she is the No. 4 seed (1:04.24) in the 100 breaststroke. She then will be part of the 400 free relay that heads into the prelims as the 16th seed (3:44.13).

Caleb Rullo, a sophomore from Derry, placed 21st in the boys 100 butterfly as he recorded a prelim time of 54.78.

Greensburg Salem junior William Crites finished 22nd in the boys 200 freestyle with a time of 1:49.25.

The Mt. Pleasant girls 200 free relay of Gardner, seniors Sarah Ivory and Lynn Gardner and sophomore Cally Hixson, swam 1:43.53 and landed in 21st.

Preliminary swims Saturday begin at 8 a.m.

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

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