Belle Vernon’s Shahan, Spekis claim PIAA swimming gold
By: Michael Love
Thursday, March 14, 2019 | 10:57 PM
LEWISBURG — Ian Shahan enjoyed the feeling of winning his first PIAA Class AA championship so much he went out and picked up another.
On Wednesday, the Belle Vernon sophomore secured the state title in the 100-yard butterfly. He returned Thursday in the 100 freestyle, set the pace in the preliminaries and brought it home in the finals with a top time of 45.39 seconds.
“I was pretty happy with my swim,” said Shahan, who bested a field that included 2018 backstroke champion Josiah Lauver, a senior from Bishop McDevitt in District 3.
Last year, on Day 2 of the Class AA state meet, Shahan swam the 100 backstroke and earned a silver medal to Lauver’s gold.
In December, Shahan decided to switch things up and go with the 100 freestyle. In the end, it paid dividends.
“I really wanted to try out my 100 free and see how far I could go with it,” Shahan said. “As I went through the season, it was getting good, and I was liking what I saw. Also, my 100 back just wasn’t up to par with where I wanted it to be.”
Shahan said he’s excited to see how he’s progressed from his freshman year to now and how he can continue to improve into his junior year.
Robert Spekis saw Shahan’s second state-title swim Thursday and set out for his own first-place finish in the 100 breaststroke.
The Leopards senior, in his final high school race, produced a winning formula to bring home gold with a time of 56.63.
“It was such a great feeling to come back for the finals and cut time,” said Spekis, who had recorded a 57.98 in the preliminaries.
“Coming here every year and racing these guys is my favorite thing. We’ve grown together throughout these years.”
The field for the championship heat in the 100 breast featured four seniors, three juniors and a freshman.
Greensburg Salem senior William Crites sliced nearly a second off his prelim time and finished fourth overall (58.43). He added the fourth to the sixth-place medal he earned Wednesday in the 50 free.
“I got off the blocks fast, and the first 50 felt phenomenal,” Crites said. “The second 50 wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be, but I still swam great.
“My favorite thing about the meet wasn’t really about the medals. It was competing against the best. It meant a lot to me to be able to keep up with everybody and be adequately prepared to race.”
Spekis captured the state crown after placing third in the 100 breast as a junior and 14th as a sophomore.
He dropped down almost two seconds from last year’s time of 58.31.
“I rested up after the prelims, came back, and gave it my all,” Spekis said.
With Spekis and Shahan’s performances leading the way, Belle Vernon finished fourth in the team standings.
Heather Gardner swam a 1:03.91 Thursday morning in the preliminaries of the 100 breaststroke, and it set her up as the fourth seed for the championship finals.
The time was one one-hundredth of a second faster than the 1:03.92 she swam in winning the WPIAL title March 1.
The Mt. Pleasant junior entered the finals knowing she could go faster and move up the ranks. She did just that as her 1:02.77 landed her in second place behind only Gwynedd Mercy senior Annie O’Dare (1:01.80).
“I was in the same exact lane (for the finals) I was in last year, so that was a good sign,” Gardner said. “I came into the race with a clear mind. I knew there were a lot of good girls in this heat. I knew Annie was really fast, so I just wanted to pace with her. I saw her on my turns, and I could tell where she was at. I just went after it.”
Gardner finished fourth in the 100 breast last year. It was O’Dare’s second straight PIAA title in the event.
“I was so happy that I cut more than a second,” she said. “I really wanted to get down into the 1:02s. I just raced as fast as I could, and I ended the season great.”
Gardner added the silver in the 100 breast to the second-place finish she recorded in the 50 free Wednesday.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .