Freeport sophomore headlines swim season in A-K Valley

Wednesday, December 7, 2022 | 9:21 PM

Freeport’s Kira Schrecongost didn’t let the bright lights and pressurized atmosphere of the WPIAL Class 2A swimming championships get to her last year as swam to gold in the 100-yard butterfly and second in the 200 individual medley as a freshman at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

She followed that up with a seventh in the 100 fly and eighth in the 200 IM at states as part of a single-day effort of eight swims – the preliminaries and finals in two individual and two relay events – at Bucknell University.

It was quite an overall medal haul at WPIALs and states for Schrecongost, who is expected to again help lead a strong contingent of Alle-Kiski Valley swimmers into championship competitions in February and March.

“Kira is looking stronger right now than she did at this time last year,” Freeport coach Nikki Heasley said. “She really grew throughout last season and now is pretty calm and collected in her approach to practices and meets. She is really team oriented.”

The Freeport girls placed fifth in the WPIAL Class 2A team standings, and they hope to be in the mix again as state qualifiers in junior Caitlyn Brennan and sophomores Isabella Barton and Danielle Parke are back to help lead the charge.

The WPIAL again has established a qualifying format that has individuals and relays shooting for set automatic cuts that will guarantee them a spot at WPIALs.

Secondary “provisional” cuts will be used to fill the remaining berths to WPIALs in each event with no event exceeding 32 entries.

WPIALs returned to Pitt last year after moving to Upper St. Clair in 2021 because of covid logistics with the number of people permitted in Trees Pool.

This year’s WPIAL finals will be at Pitt the week of Feb. 27 with the diving championships slated for the preceding Friday and Saturday.

A-K Valley coaches and swimmers again hope to be well represented at WPIALs. Last year, A-K Valley individuals and relays stood on the WPIAL medal podium 37 times.

“Everyone wants to make it to states, but WPIALs is so electrifying,” Heasley said. “There is a lot of energy there. All of the kids in the area root and cheer and support each other to do well. A lot of them swim together as teammates on club teams, so there is that connection that remains even if they are high school opponents or rivals.”

The Fox Chapel girls again are poised to challenge for the top spot in WPIAL Class 3A currently held by North Allegheny after the Tigers won their 14th straight title last year at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

The Foxes, on the strength of four WPIAL titles – senior Sophie Shao (200 IM, 100 butterfly) and the 200 medley and 400 free relays – finished runner-up by a margin of just 30 points.

Shao, who now owns the fastest 100 fly time in WPIAL history, regardless of classification, at 53.85 seconds, finished a close second in the event at states last season after winning back-to-back state titles in 2019-2020.

She wears the target on her back in several events, as does fellow senior Talia Bugel, the WPIAL runner-up last year in the 100 back.

Other WPIAL individual medalists back for the Foxes include senior Peyton O’Toole and sophomores Sarah Pasquella and Margaret Rusche.

As the Fox Chapel girls were challenging for the top spot, the Foxes boys team, led by returning WPIAL medalists in senior Aadil Pattada (100 back), sophomores Owen Howell (100 breast), Christian Dantey (200 free, 100 breast) and Jackson Hagler (diving) produced finishes that led to a fourth-place finish in boys Class 3A.

Some teams, such as Highlands, Freeport and Kiski Area, already have kicked off their seasons, while others, such as Fox Chapel and Plum, will begin competition Thursday.

Kiski Area junior Eliza Miller, runner-up in the girls Class 2A 100 breaststroke and fourth in the 200 IM at WPIALs last year, put her swimming and running prowess together this past summer and fall and competed in a number of triathlons.

While that often grueling competition remains a focus for her, so too is her goal of returning to the PIAA championships with Cavaliers teammates including seniors Parker Sterlitz and Levi Hansen.

Both Sterlitz and Hanson, multi-time state qualifiers in distance events, settled their Division I college decisions in the fall and will swim for West Virginia and Cincinnati, respectively.

“Our kids are looking really good right now,” Cavaliers coach Ryan Berberich said. “We already have a number of WPIAL-qualifying cuts. They’re working hard and focusing on how to use their workouts to get faster. When it’s time to race, they are putting it all together.”

Highlands senior Aidan Ochoa has shown he again will be a major player in boys Class 2A in early season meets as he picks up where he left off last season.

He ascended to the medals stand twice at WPIALs last year, taking fourth in both the 100 fly and 100 back and qualifying for states.

Ochoa made the PIAA consolation finals in the 100 back, finishing 16th overall.

Other area WPIAL Class 2A medalists and PIAA qualifiers back hoping for bigger things this year include Knoch sophomore Giona Lavorini (girls Class 2A 200 IM, 100 breast).

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at

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