Fox Chapel freshman makes mark at WPIAL championships

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Sunday, March 7, 2021 | 12:01 AM


Whether it was a sprint or a more measured pace, Zachary Zornan-Ferguson was able to shine in his WPIAL swimming championship debut Sunday at Upper St. Clair High School.

The Fox Chapel freshman recorded a pair of second-place finishes in opposite events: the 50-yard freestyle and 500 free.

He first posted a time of 21.14 seconds in the 50 free to finish runner-up to Butler junior Ben Borvendeg. In the 500, he dropped 12 seconds from his seed time for a 4:33.85, two seconds behind champion David Bocci, a senior from Butler.

“It was an amazing feeling to swim at WPIALs, and I surprised myself with how well I did,” said Zornan-Ferguson, who also teamed up with junior Holden Smith, sophomore Aadil Pattada and junior Nathaniel Ross on the 400 free relay that placed fifth with a school-record time of 3:13.39.

“In the 50, I was nervous, probably the most I’ve ever been swimming that event,” Zornan-Ferguson said. “In the 500, I just tried to remain calm. I pushed my way through the race, and it seemed to work out well. Starting out with my best time (in the 50) really set the stage for the rest of the meet.”

Zornan-Ferguson hopes his times will be good enough to get him into the PIAA championship meet March 20 at Cumberland Valley High School.

Only the WPIAL champion was guaranteed a spot at states. Eight at-large bids in each Class AAA event will be awarded once all of the district champions are determined.

For the second year in a row, the Franklin Regional 200 free relay swam to a silver medal. Junior Owen Holm and senior Max Wang returned from last year’s quartet and joined sophomores Aiden Bunker and Jason Tosh in swimming to a time of 1:25.99.

Seeded fifth and in the second heat, the Panthers finished runner-up only to Upper St. Clair (1:25.35).

“I felt that had we been in the faster heat with Upper St. Clair, we could’ve had a chance at running them with a shot at winning it,” Franklin Regional coach Vic Santoro said. “But I am thrilled with their performance, and we are hoping we get our ticket to states.”

The relay picked up a seventh-place medal at states last year.

“The kids trained hard all year with everything that has gone on and were very focused for this meet,” Santoro said.

Penn-Trafford senor Austin Prokopec, a Clarion commit, came in as the sixth seed in the 200 free. But he was able to knock more than two seconds off his seed time and move up to third (1:42.81), four places better than last year’s finish in the event.

It was his highest individual finish in his four years at WPIALs.

“I felt really good at the start,” Prokopec said. “I just didn’t want to get too carried away and take it out too fast. I wanted to finish the race hard and have more strength at the end. I was very happy with how I felt at the end of the race.

He returned to the pool in the 100 butterfly, and his time of 51.77 secured a fourth-place finish. While he swam the 200 free all four years, this was his first year swimming the 100 fly.

The Penn-Trafford 400 free relay, with Prokopec, senior Ben Yant and freshmen Patton Graziano and Conner Alexander, came from the ninth seed and dropped almost seven seconds to take third in a time of 3:11.52.

Kiski Area sophomores Parker Sterlitz and Levi Hansen went 3-4 in the 500 free.

Both swam faster than the school-record time Sterlitz set during the season. Sterlitz finished with a time of 4:40.70, and Hansen was on his heels with a 4:41.29.

Hansen added a fifth in the 200 free with a school-record time of 1:43.57, and Sterlitz took eighth in the event (1:45.27).

The first event of the boys meet — the 200 medley relay — saw Hempfield seniors William Falcon and Anthony Peila, junior Hunter Cooper and sophomore Liam Randolph place third overall in a time of 1:35.80.

Franklin Regional was right behind the Spartans in fourth as Wang, Holm, Bunker and freshman Holden Thomas recorded a time of 1:35.98.

Individually, Bunker posted a fourth in the 200 IM (1:55.06) and a fifth in the 100 breast (58.73). Holm secured fourth in the 50 free (21.44) and sixth in the 100 free (46.77).

Randolph brought home an individual medal for Hempfield in the 100 breast (fourth, 58.65), and Falcon took seventh in the 100 back (52.51).

In the 200 free relay, Hempfield’s Peila, William Falcon, junior Ryan Murtha and sophomore Dominic Falcon placed fourth in a time of 1:26.30, and Penn-Trafford’s Prokopec, Yant, Graziano and Alexander came in sixth (1:26.40).

Also taking home top-eight medals were Yant in the 50 free (fifth, 21.45), Ross in the 200 free (sixth, 1:44.34), Graziano in the 100 back (sixth, 52.04), and Kiski Area junior Jack Coleman in the 200 IM (seventh, 1:58.03).

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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