Hampton boys swimming enjoys huge day at WPIAL championships

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Thursday, March 5, 2020 | 5:27 PM


Morgan Zweygardt has gotten used to bringing one or two boys to states every year. This year, she will need a bigger vehicle to travel to Hershey.

The Hampton boys swim team finished third overall at WPIALs — easily its best finish since the move to Class AAA four years ago. Five boys will head to the state meet as a result of their accomplishments, including two relay teams and a handful of individual event qualifiers.

“When you think of how big those schools are compared to Hampton,” she said. “We beat Upper St. Clair, Franklin Regional … I know a lot to people have seen what Hampton has done the past four years. They know the boys like being recognized. ‘Like, wow, what are you guys doing over there?’ ”

The team finished behind North Allegheny and Seneca Valley, teams that at least double it in size, and will move to Class AA next season.

“I want to keep the ball rolling as we go into 2A,” Zweygardt said. “And I know the boys were always up to the challenge to hang with the competition in triple A. They did that this year.”

The 200-yard medley relay team of Drew Scheib, Matt Belch, Ethan Apaliski and Will Retsch finished fourth with a school record 1 minute, 36.12 seconds. Zweygardt estimated the old record stood for nearly three decades. The boys broke it by almost one second.

“We were a little surprised,” Scheib said. “We didn’t think we were going to do this good. Underdogs, definitely. But we had some great swims. Everyone stepped up and did great on their own.”

Additionally, the 400 free relay team of Scheib, Belch, Retsch and Richie Donato finished third with a time of 3:10.82 and just missed the school record.

“Last time they sent a relay to states, they were in AA,” said Zweygardt, who saw her swimmers improve eight seconds from last season.

“It’s really fun to watch the progression. The boys 400 free had the same swimmers in the same relay last year. Seeing that from the same four boys is incredible.”

Scheib, the team’s only state qualifier last season, was again the star in his WPIAL senior sendoff. He finished fourth in the 100 fly (50:38). Likewise, he set the school record with a third-place finish in the 100 backstroke (51:08).

“I’m happy with how they went,” Scheib said. “I was expecting good things but not as good as I did. We were underdogs, seeded lower than we placed. We just tried to swim like we trained for all season.”

Fellow senior leader Matthew Belch will make his state debut after finishing fifth in the 200 freestyle (1:43.04) and seventh in the 100 fly. But it wasn’t just the seniors making noise.

Also qualifying for states were junior Donato in the 100 breaststroke (59.43) and sophomore Retsch in the 200 individual medley (1:56.10). Also making waves (but very few of them) was freshman Koda Carslaw, finishing ninth in the 1-meter diving event, earning the team points.

“When you see where Drew or Matt were their freshman years,” Zweygardt said. “It’s a lot of hard work, listening, stroke technique and a willingness to change to be successful. It’s by no means I came in with a magical formula. I have swimmers that want to be better, listen and compete. It’s fun to coach them.”

As Hampton moves on to its last competition in AAA, it only can hope the young swimmers will be in line next year to compete for some serious hardware on the individual and state level.

“I think this is going to help invigorate these younger kids coming up,” Zweygardt said. “I have to attribute it to the team swimming for each other. They love to compete, never want to let their teammates down. They have built a wonderful culture.”

Scheib is excited to make the trip halfway across the state this time, knowing he won’t be the only traveler performing.

“It feels good to take the pressure off one individual,” he said. “I think we can help each other soothe into it and not be so stressed about being the first time in states. With three of the five going, they’ll be back for AA states next year, definitely. So it’ll be a great learning experience for them.”

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