Fox Chapel’s Skirboll aiming high at PIAA swimming championships
By: Michael Love
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 | 7:17 PM
There will be a new state champion in the girls Class AAA 100-yard breaststroke.
Last year’s champion, Olivia Paoletti from Avon Grove in District 1, graduated.
Fox Chapel freshman Zoe Skirboll plans on having a lot to say about who will ascend to the top of the podium Saturday at Bucknell.
Skirboll is the top seed after establishing a WPIAL record of 1 minute, 0.96 seconds at Pitt’s Trees Pool. Butler junior Laura Goettler, last year’s PIAA runner-up, is seeded second (1:01.51), and Moon senior Leah Baker is the third seed (1:02.72).
“I am really excited to race these girls,” Skirboll said. “I expect everyone will push each other. WPIALs is over, and states is a whole new thing. You really can’t tell what’s going to happen.”
Skirboll leads a fast WPIAL representation in the 100 breaststroke. In addition to the top three, five of the top six and eight of the top 16 are from the WPIAL.
Included in that group is Plum senior Devan Taylor, who is seeded 11th (1:04.59) for her fourth and final 100 breast race at states.
Taylor came from a seed outside the top eight last year to swim in the finals and reach the podium in eighth.
“It’s a relaxing and calming effect to know what I need to do to get into the final heat,” Taylor said.
On Day 1, Skirboll is seeded second in the 200 individual medley (2:00.25). Goettler, the WPIAL champion, is the lone swimmer in the event to break two minutes (1:58.68) at a district meet, and that’s one of Skirboll’s goals Friday.
“The time Laura went at WPIALs is crazy fast,” Skirboll said.
Taylor, a past state qualifier in the 200 IM, switched things up this winter and will test herself as the No. 19 seed in the 50 free (24.05) after placing fifth at WPIALs.
Preliminary heats Friday and Saturday begin at 8 a.m. for girls and 10:50 a.m. for boys. The top 16 after the prelims return for the consolation and championship finals at 4:35 p.m. Friday and 5:05 p.m. Saturday.
Girls diving will be at 1 p.m. Friday, and the boys will compete for diving gold at 12:55 p.m. Saturday.
Skirboll will join junior Grace Gackenbach, junior Leia Ross and sophomore Vivian Shao on the 200 medley and 400 free relays.
The Foxes 200 medley relay set a school record at WPIALs and is seeded 10th (1:46.12), and the 400 free relay is seeded 12th (3:33.65).
“Together, we’ve been working so hard, and I know we can do something great,” Skirboll said. “We want on that podium.”
Ross also will swim individually in the 100 backstroke (21st seed, 57.66).
After two years as the lone Plum representative at states, Taylor will swim in the 200 medley relay with senior Alexis Smith, junior Delanee White and freshman Elizabeth Glasspool. The quartet, eighth at WPIALs (1:48.71), heads into the PIAA meet seeded 24th.
On the boys side, Plum senior Justin Decheck will swim individually twice Friday. He captured sixth-place WPIAL medals in the 200 free and 100 butterfly and broke a pair of longstanding school records.
Decheck is seeded 11th in the 100 fly (50.84) and 27th in the 200 free (1:44.15).
“He’s excited and ready to race again and do better at states,” Plum coach Shawn Haupt said.
As far as experience is concerned, three-time WPIAL champion Jonah Cagley, a senior from Fox Chapel, is at the top of the list.
Cagley enters Saturday’s PIAA Class AAA boys competition seeking his first state championship. He is seeded first after scoring a state-best 588.95 points at the WPIAL championships Feb. 23.
Last year, Cagley was third after each round of the 11-dive event at Bucknell.
He made his PIAA debut in 2016 after a runner-up WPIAL finish and placed 12th before jumping up nine places to third as a sophomore two years ago.
Foxes sophomore David Manelis is establishing his own PIAA reputation and hopes to improve on last year’s 10th-place finish. He earned a bronze medal in his WPIAL debut three weeks earlier.
Manelis began this year’s championship-meet journey with a fourth (494.60) at WPIALs behind Cagley and seniors Logan Sherwin (Penn-Trafford) and Owen Johns (Mt. Lebanon).
Manelis is the No. 9 seed.
Franklin Regional senior Mason Fishell rounds out the state qualifiers from the WPIAL as the 11th seed.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .