Deer Lakes’ Morrison outlasts Mars counterpart to capture WPIAL 500 freestyle title

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Friday, March 1, 2019 | 7:24 PM


Adam Morrison and Andrew Pierre couldn’t be separated.

No, the two didn’t find themselves throwing fists in a fight.

Morrison, a Deer Lakes junior, and Pierre, a senior from Mars, finished first and second in both of their head-to-head matchups at the WPIAL Class AA championships at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

On Thursday, Pierre topped Morrison in the 200-yard individual medley by 33 one-hundredths of a second.

Morrison returned the favor Friday and rallied to edge Pierre for the 500 freestyle championship. Morrison touched the wall in 4 minutes, 40.05 seconds, more than 20 seconds better than his seed time.

Pierre came in second at 4:40.99.

“Racing each other in practice, I tend to know how (Pierre) takes things out at the start,” Morrison said of his teammate in club swimming.

“I could see where he was across the pool, and I was catching up to him heading into the last 50. I knew I had to use an extra burst of energy to finish off the race. I knew I could do it, and to finally achieve that goal is incredible.”

Morrison and Pierre, by virtue of their individual titles, clinched trips to the state meet.

The WPIAL champion is the only automatic qualifier to the PIAA Class AA championships, set for March 15 and 16 at Bucknell.

The at-large bids from the WPIAL, based on times recorded Thursday and Friday, will be determined by comparing times from the other 11 districts to form the lineups for each individual and relay event.

The PIAA tentatively is expected to release the qualifying lists for each event Sunday afternoon.

Highlands junior Rachel Blackburn and Freeport freshman Alexis Schrecongost were the closest challengers to Mt. Pleasant’s Heather Gardner in the girls 100 breaststroke.

While Gardner defended her title in the event with a time of 1:03.92, Blackburn finished second (1:06.77), and Schrecongost took third (1:07.13).

For Blackburn, is was a rise of one spot from last year’s third-place position.

“I knew I needed to pick it up over the second half of the race,” she said. “I was going for a pace time of 1:04, but I was happy with the way I swam.”

Blackburn added a sixth-place finish in the 200 IM Thursday.

Schrecongost finished with four medals over two individual and two relay events. She also was fifth in the 200 IM.

“I felt I could’ve done even better (in the 100 breast),” Schrecongost said. “My stroke count was off a little bit, and that kind of affected how I swam and how I finished. I felt I took it out way too slow. But it was nice to go against that competition.”

Both Blackburn and Schrecongost said their times should send them to states with at-large selections.

The Alle-Kiski Valley was well-represented on the medals podium Friday.

Knoch senior Matt Cummings, swimming in high school for the first time this season, made his WPIAL debut and earned four fourth-place medals.

He capped his two-day effort with a fourth in the boys 100 breaststroke (1:00.64). Teammate Braden Zukowski, a junior, took third (1:00.14).

“Having Braden right there next to me, we push each other and make each other better,” said Cummings, who was fourth and Zukowski fifth Thursday in the 200 IM.

Riverview sophomore Beth Shoop picked up the A-K Valley’s first medal of the Friday Class AA session as she rose from the ninth seed in the 500 free to place seventh (5:31.55).

Deer Lakes junior Noah Loper and St. Joseph freshman Sam Wygonik joined Morrison on the podium in the boys 500. Loper landed in fifth (4:47.45), and Wygonik scored an eighth-place finish (4:59.99).

Also scoring medals were Freeport senior Ariana Clark (seventh, girls 100 backstroke); Springdale senior Rachel Halapchuk (eighth, girls 100 back); Knoch sophomore Zach Wilson (sixth, boys 100 back); and the Freeport girls 400 free relay of Clark, Schrecongost and sophomores Brooke Welling and Madison Moretti (sixth).

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

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