Fox Chapel’s Skirboll sets WPIAL breaststroke record in claiming gold medal

Friday, March 1, 2019 | 4:01 PM

Zoe Skirboll counted down the days to her first opportunity at the WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships.

The Fox Chapel freshman said she had a good feeling about her races and wanted to see how fast she could go.

The answer is pretty fast.

Skirboll captured the girls 100-yard breaststroke Friday at Pitt’s Trees Pool, and she did it in record fashion. Her time of 1 minute, .96 seconds surpassed the previous record of 1:02.68 set by Pine-Richland’s Kristen Murslack in 2012.

“I was really excited for my time, and it was great to see everyone on the side going crazy and cheering me on,” said Skirboll, who added a runner-up finish Thursday in the 200 individual medley. “It was a best time for me, so it really pumped me up.”

The WPIAL champion is the only automatic qualifier to the PIAA championships, set for March 13 and 14 at Bucknell.

The at-large bids from the WPIAL, based on times recorded Thursday and Friday, will be determined by comparing times from the other 11 districts to form the lineups for each individual and relay event.

The PIAA tentatively is expected to release the qualifying lists for each event Sunday afternoon.

“I can’t wait for states to see if I can go faster,” Skirboll said.

Skirboll’s record was one of three set on Day 2. Upper St. Clair’s Jack Fitzpatrick and Josh Matheny also established new top marks in the boys 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke, respectively.

It was a good second day for Fox Chapel overall.

Shortly after Skirboll’s win in the 100 breast, the girls 400 free relay of Skirboll, juniors Grace Gackenbach and Leia Ross and sophomore Vivian Shao placed fourth with a school-record time of 3:33.65.

The team came in seeded eighth, but it dropped almost eight seconds from its seed time (3:41.27).

The same four kicked off the two days of competition with a school record and a fourth-place finish in the 200 medley relay.

Earlier in Friday’s session, Gackenbach, a veteran of five previous individual races at WPIALs, captured her first individual medal as she placed eighth in the 500 freestyle. She dropped more than four seconds from her seed time to finish with a 5:11.46.

“I felt really strong from the beginning,” she said. “I just had to keep up with everyone and have a really good race. I didn’t know I got eighth until my coach (Dan Taylor) told me. I am really happy.”

Ross then turned in a sixth-place finish in the 100 backstroke (57.66).

“WPIALs is such a great team atmosphere,” she said. “It’s so great to see your teammates cheering at the end of the lane.”

Plum senior Devan Taylor placed sixth overall in the 100 breast (1:04.59), and she hopes the time is good enough to earn her an at-large bid to states.

“My race felt good today,” said Taylor, who owns the school record in the event — 1:04.13 — set at states last year.

“It’s the best I’ve felt this season. I really want another shot at it at states. This was just my warmup, and I am ready to go even faster if I get the chance.”

The Plum boys 400 free relay of senior Justin Decheck, junior Joey Decheck and sophomores Jordan Rogers and Aaron Frederick dropped almost nine seconds from their seed time and captured a seventh-place medal (3:16.68).

“We had big intentions coming into WPIALs,” said Joey Decheck, the relay’s anchor. “When I went off the block, I knew I had to bring it home, not just for me but the whole team in general. This was just so special. It’s my brother’s senior year and my last year of swimming with him. I love these guys. They’re my family. I’d swim with them forever.”

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

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