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

Sunday, March 7, 2021 | 5:56 PM

A change of location didn’t deter Sophie Shao’s goal of defending her WPIAL Class AAA girls 100-yard butterfly championship.

Covid-related capacity limitations forced the WPIAL to move Sunday’s meet from Pitt’s Trees Pool to Upper St. Clair High School.

But the Fox Chapel sophomore, who already had a WPIAL title in her possession earlier in the day with the 200 medley relay, led early in the fly and maintained the advantage until she touched the wall in a winning time of 54.50 seconds.

Her time was faster than the 54.74 she clocked in winning the event at WPIALs last year. She swam her personal best of 54.22 in capturing the state title at Bucknell two weeks later.

“I don’t think I was at my top performance,” said Shao, who still was able to top the field, including runner-up Ella Ogden, a junior from North Allegheny (56.73), by more than two seconds.

“I was a little nervous. That might have fed into it. It was also a little weird with the change in venue and no audience, but I am still happy with my time.”

Shao will attempt to lower her time as she secured an automatic berth to the PIAA Class AAA championships March 20 at Cumberland Valley High School.

Only the WPIAL champion in each event is guaranteed a spot at states. In Class AAA, there will be eight at-large bids available in each event after all the district champions are determined to arrive at a field of 16.

“It’s a good feeling to know I am set for states. I am excited,” Shao said.

She is in good position to secure an at-large bid in the 200 individual medley after finishing runner-up to North Allegheny senior Molly Smyers. Shao checked in with a time of 2:04.02.

Last year, Shao swam the 100 breast as her individual complement to the 100 fly and placed fourth.

The Foxes 200 medley relay of Shao, sophomore Talia Bugel, junior Rei Sperry and senior Vivian Shao, which came in seeded third, won the title with a school-record 1:45.16. It dropped two full seconds from its seed time (1:47.18).

Vivian Shao, Sophie’s sister, brought the relay home with a 23.90 freestyle split. She said the win was a little unexpected — the team was seeded more than a second slower than Seneca Valley and North Allegheny — and also exhilarating.

“A goal was to get the school record,” Vivian Shao said. “The 1:45.1 exceeded our expectations a little bit. But we’re super happy with the time.

“I could tell that Rei had a good catch-up (100 fly split), and I really didn’t want to lose it when I dove in. That gave me a lot of motivation to finish it off strong.”

The winning continued for Fox Chapel in the 100 backstroke as sophomore Talia Bugel won her first WPIAL title with a time of 55.93. She was third in the event during her WPIAL debut in 2020.

“I swam well. I am very proud of what I did,” Bugel said. “My underwaters were a lot better than last year.”

Bugel said a strong backstroke split during the medley relay gave her added confidence to bring home the 100 back title.

“That got me really pumped up,” said Bugel, who also earned a bronze medal in the 50 free (24.36).

The Foxes 400 free relay of Vivian Shao, Sophie Shao, Bugel and Sperry finished third behind North Allegheny and Upper St. Clair. Its time of 3:31.91 was two-tenths off the school record (3:31.69).

Fox Chapel finished fourth in the standings with 207 points. North Allegheny won its 13th straight Class AAA girls team title with 425 points.

Anna Little came up big for Norwin as the sophomore, in her WPIAL debut, swam to third place in the 100 breast with a time of 1:05.86. It was more than a second faster than her seed time (1:07.41).

“I was hoping to get a time like that,” said Little, who swam exclusively with her Norwin Aqua Club team last year.

“I was really happy. I saw my time, and I was like, ‘Oh, cool. I did it!’ I’ve wanted that time for a long time.”

Franklin Regional relays earned three medals. The 200 free relay of senior Madalyn Myers, junior Rosalynd Lingg and sophomores Natalie Eiben and Amanda McFaden placed fifth in a time of 1:39.34, and the Panthers 200 medley relay (Eiben, McFaden, sophomore Allyson Hilty and Paityn Blakley) and 400 free relay (Myers, Lingg, Eiben and McFaden) each took sixth.

The Fox Chapel 200 free relay quartet of Sperry, Vivian Shao and juniors Ariana Pasquella and Julia Stutzman swam to fourth (1:38.91).

Hempfield captured two relay medals as the 200 free relay of senior Maddy Cisco, junior Emma Martz and sophomores Camryn Watters and Jordan Crupie (1:39.89) and the 200 medley relay of Crupie, Martz, Cisco and senior Callysta Fontanazza (1:50.92) each placed seventh.

Norwin senior Jordan Kutchak was fourth in the 100 free (53.02) and fifth in the 200 free (1:56.12).

Crupie picked up individual medals in the 100 back (tie-sixth, 57.62) and 100 fly (seventh, 58.56).

Pasquella placed seventh in the 100 breast (1:06.56), while Kiski Area’s Eliza Miller followed in eighth (1:06.67).

Fox Chapel’s Sperry added an individual eighth-place medal in the 100 back (57.89).

Also medaling were Franklin Regional’s Myers in the 200 free (sixth, 1:56.20) and Eiben in the 100 fly (eighth, 58.60).

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

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