Deer Lakes swimmers take second, third in hotly contested 200 free at WPIAL meet

Thursday, February 27, 2020 | 7:11 PM

There weren’t any floats or marching bands at Thursday’s WPIAL Class AA swimming championship meet at Pitt’s Trees Pool, but there was a sizable parade of Alle-Kiski Valley individuals and relay teams to the medal podium in the session’s six events.

Deer Lakes seniors Adam Morrison and Noah Loper led the way with second- and third-place finishes in the boys 200-yard freestyle.

As the top seed, Morrison had designs on the title after finishing second last year, but Indiana junior Kyle Thome won gold with a time of 1:41.50. Morrison swam a 1:42.68.

“I know I couldn’t have gone any faster. I gave it my all,” said Morrison, the No. 2 seed and defending champion for Friday’s 500 free. “I am proud of Kyle for stepping up, and Noah really swam a fast race, too.”

Loper checked in with a time of 1:43.72.

“I did a good time drop, but at the end, I realized that there are a couple of little things I need to work on,” he said. “I feel that me, Adam and Kyle, we really pushed each other.”

In all, there were time drops and personal bests across the board and a total of 15 medal-winning swims (top eight) by A-K Valley swimmers.

Highlands senior Rachel Blackburn went under one minute in the 100 butterfly as her 59.73 placed her fourth overall.

“That was my best time,” she said. “It was really crazy. I felt really excited when I looked up on the board and saw that time.”

Blackburn said her 100-fly cut in the 200 medley relay gave her a good feel for the rest of her Thursday swims. The relay, which also included freshman Brenna Bonnett and sophomores Abigail Watts and Alli Love, kicked everything off by dropping nearly five seconds from its seed time and earning an eighth-place medal in a time of 1:58.07.

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 by swimmers from all 12 districts.

The girls 200 free saw Freeport sophomore Alexis Schrecongost place fourth (1:57.70), Burrell freshman Payton O’Toole finish fifth in her WPIAL debut (1:59.23), and Freeport junior Brooke Welling take sixth (1:59.91).

“I was a little nervous, but I was trying not to be,” O’Toole said. “Whenever I got in, I thought of it as just another club race or regular race during the season. I was seeded eighth, but I knew I could go faster than what my seed time was. Going under two minutes, I was really happy.”

The Knoch boys 200 medley relay of junior Zach Wilson, senior Braden Zukowski, sophomore Caden Traggiai and junior Lachlan King placed fourth with a time of 1:41.72.

“We were all really in the zone,” said King, the relay’s anchor. “We’ve been working at this the whole season, anticipating what this relay could do. We came in with a lot of confidence.”

Wilson later swam the 50 free for the first time at a WPIAL meet and finished fifth in a time of 22.36. He was just four hundredths of a second away from third.

“I just wanted to dive in and swim my heart out,” Wilson said. “I kind of botched my start, but I brought it back with my underwaters and my flip turns. I was happy at the end.”

Also earning fifth-place finishes were the Knoch boys 200 free relay of Wilson, Traggiai, Zukowski and sophomore Nick Ferraro (1:32.16) and the Freeport girls 200 free relay of Welling, Schrecongost, junior Madison Moretti and freshman Aimee Heasley (1:43.09).

The Deer Lakes boys 200 free relay of Loper, Morrison, senior AJ Dorman and junior Dylan Hlavenka finished right behind Knoch in sixth overall (1:32.34), while Traggiai (200 free, seventh, 1:51.15), Zukowski (200 individual medley, seventh, 2:01.40) and Moretti (100 fly, eighth, 1:01.22) secured individual medals.

The Knoch boys sit in fourth in the team standings with 110 points, while Deer Lakes is fifth (77). Northgate leads the way with 133 points, followed by Indiana (121) and Riverside (117).

The Freeport girls are eighth overall with 67 points. Elizabeth Forward is first (153).

The Class AA swimming championships continue at 3 p.m. Friday with timed finals in the 100 free, 500 free, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 400 free relay.

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

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