Fox Chapel’s Sophie Shao defends PIAA title in 100 butterfly

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Saturday, March 20, 2021 | 9:14 PM


After defending her WPIAL title in the 100-yard butterfly two weeks ago, Fox Chapel sophomore Sophie Shao went looking for a similar repeat performance Saturday at the PIAA Class AAA championships at Cumberland Valley.

Mission accomplished.

Taking to the pool for the third time in a little more than 60 minutes — she also competed in the 200 medley relay and the 200 individual medley — Shao edged state rival Sydney Gring, a sophomore from District 3’s Muhlenberg, by a half second to again bring home the 100 fly title with a time of 55.59.

Shao is now the first swimmer in the history of the Fox Chapel program to win two individual state titles.

“I was pretty tired, a little more tired than I expected,” Shao said. “But I am glad I got that over with and was able to win the title again. There was a lot of preparation from everybody for this meet. (The 100 fly) was an amazing race. I am glad to be able to put my name up there again.”

Shao defeated Gring by a second for last year’s 100 fly state title. Gring, who came in as the No. 1 seed this year, touched the wall in 54.89.

“Sydney is amazing,” Shao said.

“She had a really great swim at (the District 3 championships). I was like, ‘Wow, that’s really fast.’ It was great to race her and talk with her again. I’m sure it’s not the last race between the two of us.”

Shao, who finished seventh in the 100 breast last year, switched over to the 200 IM this year, and she snagged a sixth-place medal in a time of 2:04.43.

The WPIAL champion Fox Chapel girls 200 medley relay of Sophie Shao (breaststroke), sophomore Talia Bugel (backstroke), junior Rei Sperry (butterfly) and senior Vivian Shao (freestyle) came to states seeded first and hoped to add another gold medal to their collection.

However, District 1’s Upper Dublin (champion), District 6’s State College (runner-up) and District 1’s Unionville (third) had something to say about that.

Fox Chapel finished fourth with a time of 1:45.42, slightly slower than their WPIAL-record time of 1:45.16. They edged Seneca Valley for fourth by two-one hundredths of a second.

“We weren’t too far off of our WPIAL time, and each 50 fluctuated by such a small amount,” said Vivian Shao, the relay’s anchor.

“Out-touching (Seneca Valley) for fourth was nice. It was way better than last year. We didn’t even place last year.”

Vivian Shao, competing at states for the third time, wrapped up her high school swim career with the 400 free relay, and along with Sophie Shao, Sperry and Bugel, the quartet earned a seventh-place medal in a time of 3:31.91.

The relay came in seeded eighth, and it dropped almost two seconds from its seed time (3:31.91).

“This has been such a huge honor to swim at states,” said Vivian Shao, who is looking forward to competing in college with MIT and Cal Tech as two possibilities among several others.

Bugel swam the 100 backstroke for the second time in as many seasons. She finished at 56.49, elevated from last year’s time and this year’s seed time, but she was able to bump up one place from 10th last year to ninth on Saturday.

She missed a state medal by 25 one-hundredths of a second.

Foxes freshman Zachary Zornan-Ferguson made his PIAA debut in the boys 50 free and placed 10th with a time of 21.25. WPIAL champion Ben Borvendeg, a junior from Butler, took fourth (20.69).

Zornan-Ferguson also swam the 500 free and finished 10th overall in a time of 4:37.94. He came in seeded third after a WPIAL runner-up finish.

“He was just a 10th (of a second) off in the 50 free, but it was a nice swim for him,” Fox Chapel coach Dan Taylor said. “In the 50, there is no margin for error.

“We chatted about the 500; he just took it out too hard and a little too aggressively. He’s just not quite ready to go out that hard and bring it home. He’s a freshman on the big stage for the first time. He got up here with nothing to lose, and he went after it. It was a great learning experience for him.”

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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