Buerger’s triumph helps North Allegheny girls to Day 1 lead at WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships

Thursday, February 27, 2020 | 5:09 PM

Butler’s Laura Goettler was going after a four-peat in the Class AAA girls 200-yard individual medley on the first day of the WPIAL swimming championships Thursday at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

But North Allegheny senior Torie Buerger had golden goals of her own.

In the end, the versatile Tigers standout stood tall at the top of the medals podium with a winning time of 2 minutes, 0.57 seconds. She bested Goettler, who finished as the runner-up in 2:02.45.

“I definitely have been waiting,” Buerger said. “I’ve been working very hard. I ultimately was not rested for this meet, but I just felt really good, and it was really cool to finally win.”

Buerger had finished third as a freshman, runner-up to Goettler as a sophomore and third last year behind Goettler and Fox Chapel’s Zoe Skirboll.

“Honestly, I was not expecting (the time difference between first and second strokes),” Buerger said. “I turned on the backstroke and thought (Goettler) might catch me in the breaststroke because I am not a very good breaststroker. But after the breaststroke, I was like, ‘Yeah, I got this.’”

For the second year in a row, only the WPIAL champion in both individual and relay events earns an automatic berth to the PIAA championships, set for March 11-14 at Bucknell.

The other bids to states will be determined by comparing the times recorded with times from the other 11 districts.

Gateway senior and Louisville commit Olivia Livingston completed a four-year sweep of the girls 50 freestyle as she won the event with a time of 23.09 seconds.

“I felt parts of the race could’ve been better, but I will have time between now and states to make it better,” said Livingston, who will have a chance to win her fourth 100 free title on Friday.

A win in the 100 free would give her eight individual WPIAL titles, and she would become only the second WPIAL swimmer to accomplish the feat. Penn Hills star Melanie Buddemyer, who still holds the Class AAA girls record in the 100 butterfly, won eight individual golds in the early 1980s.

“I feel really confident going into the 100,” Livingston said.

Norwin senior Ethan Tulenko pulled a rare individual double play on Day 1 as he won WPIAL titles in both the 200 freestyle (1:40.07) and 50 free (20.78).

“It was definitely a challenge, but I’ve done a lot of meets before where I swim a lot of events close together, so I’ve been prepared,” said Tulenko, a George Washington commit.

“I do club (Racer-X) in the offseason, so that’s really helped me prepare for this.”

Tulenko, who didn’t swim high school last season while concentrating his efforts on club, was sixth in the 50 and 13th in the 100 at WPIALs as a sophomore.

“It’s really great just to show the hard work and how much I’ve improved since sophomore year,” he said.

North Allegheny senior and Stanford commit Rick Mihm won his third straight WPIAL title in the 200 IM. He bested runner-up Josh Matheny, a junior from Upper St. Clair and an Indiana verbal commit, by more than three seconds.

“I didn’t expect to be that far ahead at the end, but I am happy with how I swam,” Mihm said.

The Class AAA session kicked off with a win by the North Allegheny 200 medley relay of Buerger, junior Oliva Kisow, sophomore Ella Ogden and senior Olivia Kraus. The quartet finished with a time of 1:42.59, just three one-hundredths of a second off the WPIAL record set by NA in 2015.

The North Allegheny boys 200 medley relay of Mihm, juniors Jacob McCarran and Matthew Turzai and senior Branko Kosanovich followed with a victory in a time of 1:32.92.

In the girls 200 free, Upper St. Clair junior Taylor Connors edged North Allegheny junior Molly Smyers at the wall. Connors finished with a winning time of 1:50.34 to Smyers’ 1:50.62.

Connors made the jump to the title after finishing 13th in the 100 free and 15th in the 100 fly at WPIALs last year.

Seneca Valley’s Owen Blazer, fourth in the 100 fly as a sophomore and third last year, ascended to the top of the mountain in the event Thursday with a winning time of 48.48.

Fox Chapel freshman Sophie Shao made the most of her WPIAL debut as she won the girls 100 fly in a time of 54.74.

North Allegheny picked up another win in the girls 200 free relay as juniors Molly Smyers and Quinn Frost, Ogden and freshman Lexi Sundgren bested the field in a time of 1:36.12.

The final heat of the Class AAA session, the last heat of the boys 200 free relay, was delayed for nearly a half hour. A falling piece of metal at the start of the heat threw off the timing of several of the swimmers. WPIAL officials gave the teams time to refocus before continuing.

When the action resumed, North Allegheny seniors Josh Galecki and Alex Grahor, along with Kosanovich and Turzai, teamed up to win the event in a time of 1:25.11.

The victory gave the Tigers boys team a Day 1 total of 196 points, 60 more than second-place Seneca Valley. Upper St. Clair is in third with 92 points, one point ahead of Hampton.

Led by the two relay wins and Buerger’s triumph in the 200 IM, North Allegheny leads the girls team standings with 215 points. Mt. Lebanon is second with 125, followed by Fox Chapel (102) and Seneca Valley (91).

The Class AAA swimming championships continue at 9:45 a.m. Friday with timed finals in the 100 free, 500 free, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 400 free relay.

Watch the archived video stream of the meet on Trib HSSN.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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