Fox Chapel’s Shao ready to defend 100 fly title at state meet

Wednesday, March 17, 2021 | 7:48 PM

One title defense down, one to go.

Two weeks after Fox Chapel sophomore Sophie Shao captured her second WPIAL Class AAA girls 100-yard butterfly championship in as many attempts, she will go after her second PIAA gold medal in the event Saturday as the state championships descend on Cumberland Valley High School.

“I am really ready and excited,” said Shao, who swam a time of 54.50 at WPIALs and hopes to improve on her time of 54.22 from last year at Bucknell University.

Shao, who earned the fifth state title in the history of Fox Chapel swimming last year, knows that the rest of the state hopes to knock her off the top rung of the ladder. That includes fellow sophomore and last year’s 100 fly runner-up Sydney Gring from Muhlenburg.

Shao topped Gring for the title by more than a second. Gring is this year’s the top seed with a 50.35 recorded at the District 3 championships.

“I am excited to race her again,” Shao said. “She is really good. I know there are others who will challenge both of us. I have to be at my best.”

Shao also heads to states seeded fourth in the 200 individual medley (2:04.02).

The PIAA championships went through changes this winter. No longer at Bucknell, additional moves because of covid capacity limitations saw the number of qualifiers in each event reduced from 32 to 16.

Instead of preliminary and finals sessions, all the events will be timed finals. The top eight still will receive medals.

Both the Class AA and Class AAA meets will be run in one day. Class AA girls kicks off everything Friday at 10:45 a.m., with the Class AA boys session to begin at 5:30 p.m. Class AAA will follow the same start times Saturday.

Fox Chapel has a chance to bring home its first PIAA relay title since 1995 as the 200 medley relay of Sophie Shao, sophomore Talia Bugel, junior Rei Sperry and senior Vivian Shao is the top seed after capturing the WPIAL title with a school-record time of 1:45.16.

“This week of preparation has been a blur,” said Sperry, who helped the relay, with the same lineup, place ninth at states last year. “We’ve been prepping, working on starts, turns, everything to be ready. We are really confident.”

The Shao sisters, Sperry and Bugel also are seeded eighth (3:31.91) for the 400 free relay.

Bugel, the WPIAL champion in the 100 backstroke (55.93), is hoping for more good things in the event at states. She is seeded fifth.

Last year, she placed 10th in the preliminaries but didn’t get a chance to come back for the consolation finals in the evening. Growing covid concerns caused the PIAA to cancel Day 2 consolation and championship finals.

“I am higher seeded this year, and my goal is to get that state medal,” Bugel said. “Since the meet is smaller with just 16 in each event, it should be pretty interesting all the way around.”

Fox Chapel freshman Zachary Ferguson will make his PIAA debut in the 50 free and 500 free after a pair of runner-up finishes at WPIALs. He was only two seconds behind WPIAL 500 champion David Bocci, a senior from Butler.

He is the third seed in the 500 (4:33.85) and is tied for ninth in the 50 free (21.14).

“He had a great 500 race at WPIALs and was right in the thick of it until the last 50 or so,” Fox Chapel coach Dan Taylor said. “He knows he can probably be a little faster. We’ve worked on a lot over the last couple of days, and he looks real good in the water.”

The Class AA meet returns Friday after it was canceled in its entirety last year. That has been music to the ears of local qualifiers, including Freeport junior Alexis Schrecongost, the WPIAL champion in the girls 100 breast (1:06.03) who is seeded fifth in the event at states.

“I am hoping to place at states and get a personal best,” Schrecongost said. “That would be amazing for me.”

In her first PIAA meet in 2019, Schrecongost made the 100 breast consolation final and finished 14th (1:07.21).

She also hopes to make her move as the ninth seed in the 100 free (53.44).

Last year’s canceled Class AA state meet was of little consequence to St. Joseph junior Sam Wygonik, who missed last season while recovering from elbow surgery. He’s back, and he has his sights set on a state medal. He is the 11th seed in the 500 free (4:51.70).

The Plum duo of senior Logan Minick and junior Sam Schohn also are ready for Class AA states. Schohn is the 11th seed in the 100 breast (1:01.17), while Minick is the 13th seed in the 500 free (4:53.63).

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

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