Fox Chapel freshman brings home WPIAL swimming gold

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Thursday, February 27, 2020 | 5:18 PM


Sophie Shao was full of energy and smiling from ear to ear when she came off the podium after receiving her gold medal in the WPIAL Class AAA girls 100-yard butterfly Thursday at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

About 20 minutes earlier, the Fox Chapel freshman swam to a winning time of 54.74 seconds, going under the 55-second mark for the first time this year.

“This definitely was a goal of mine since the start of the season,” said Shao, who outdistanced runner-up Ella Ogden, a sophomore from North Allegheny. “I was so happy and also relieved because I was a little nervous beforehand. The adrenaline was definitely there.”

Ogden touched the wall in a time of 55.13.

In addition to winning the title, Shao also lowered her school-record time in the event. She came in seeded first with a time of 55.12 recorded at a section dual meet with Franklin Regional on Feb. 6.

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 top eight finishers in each event earned medals.

“I just want to keep this going at states,” Shao said. “I feel I still have work to do. I know I can go faster.”

She is the second Fox Chapel freshman in as many years to claim WPIAL gold. Zoe Skirboll won the 100 breaststroke last year.

Shao said a good swim as part of the meet-opening 200 medley relay also helped her mentally and physically prepare for her 100 fly swim.

The relay of Shao, freshman Talia Bugel, sophomore Rei Sperry and junior Vivian Shao raced to a school-record time of 1:45.92, surpassing the 1:46.12 set last year by Vivian Shao, Zoe Skirboll, Leia Ross and Grace Gackenbach and finishing third.

“This is really exciting. We all did what we had to do to get this best time. That was our goal going in,” Vivian Shao said. “We were close to it (1:46.49) at Franklin (Regional), and we knew we could go faster.”

Fox Chapel swimmers picked up additional medals on day one.

Vivian Shao, Sperry, Gackenbach and Julia Stutzman teamed up to take fifth in the 200 free relay. They went under 1:40, finishing with at time of 1:39.27, less than a half-second away from fourth-place North Hills (1:38.99).

Bugel scored a sixth-place medal in the girls 50 free with a time of 24.57.

Also earning a WPIAL medal was Plum senior Joey Decheck, who placed seventh in the boys 50 free with a personal-best time of 21.70.

“I felt good,” Decheck said. “I was .14 off the (school) record, so that was a little tough. But it felt good to finally make podium.”

Plum sophomore Elizabeth Glasspool finished 10th in the girls 100 butterfly, and she lowered her own school-record time to 59.00.

“I’m not going to lie; at first I was a little disappointed it wasn’t a 58,” Glasspool said concerning the goal of swimming a time under 59 seconds. “It was so close. But at the same time, it was pretty exciting.”

Ross placed 10th in the girls 200 free. Her time of 1:56.20 was only 14 hundredths of a second away from eighth.

The Fox Chapel girls are third in the team standings with 102 points. North Allegheny leads the way with 215 points, and Mt. Lebanon is second with 125.

The Class AAA swimming championships continues 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@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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