Hampton boys win school’s first WPIAL team swimming title in 22 years
Saturday, March 6, 2021 | 10:32 PM
Everyone knew what to expect from Belle Vernon senior Ian Shahan coming into the WPIAL Class AA swimming championships Saturday. After all, he had previously won five gold medals in his high school career.
But the fact that Hampton won the team title, something the Talbots hadn’t done since the turn of the century, may have raised a few eyebrows. Hampton scored 218 points, 16.5 points more than runner-up Northgate.
The day’s first race may have been a portent of things to come for Hampton, as the quartet of Ben Sheets, Ethan Apaliski, Will Retsch and Richie Donato won gold in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:36.11. Sheets, Davis Gindelsperger, Donato and Retsch later won the bronze in the meet’s final race (3:16.35), which gave Hampton enough team points to secure the come-from-behind championship.
For Hampton, Retsch also won the 200 IM (1:54.79), and Donato placed second in the 100 breast (58.22). Those finishes helped Hampton to its first team championship since 1999.
“We knew we would be strong contenders (moving from Class AAA to AA),” Hampton coach Morgan Zweygardt said. “We wanted to take it one race at a time because there is still a lot of good competition down here. The boys were really motivated. They’re a good group of kids.”
Shahan, who won gold in the 50 free and 100 fly as a junior, shared a gold medal in the day’s most exciting race. Racing next to Conner McBeth in the 50 free, the West Point-bound Shahan and the West Virginia-bound McBeth tied with a time of 20.36 to split the gold medal.
“Initially, I thought, ‘Hey, I won.’ Then the announcer said we tied,” Shahan said. “I couldn’t be happier. It was a great race for WPIALs. Hopefully, we can have another great race against each other at states.”
Because Shahan’s seed time was better, he earned the automatic bid to the state championship, although McBeth, who now has four WPIAL titles, is expected to capture one of the six at-large bids.
Belle Vernon coach Rob Reda was happy for his senior Shahan, whose second-place finish in the 100 fly as a freshman denied him a four-year sweep.
“The team came out strong tonight,” Reda said. “Obviously with Ian being a WPIAL and state champion his sophomore year and last year, he is a big leader on the team in the pool and in the locker room. I’m proud of all of them.”
Also excelling was the Riverside swim team, finishing third with a team score of 184.
The Panthers are an interesting story, with a pair of co-op swimmers, Alexander and Joe Roth from Ellwood City, on the roster. The brothers led the Wolverines basketball team to the WPIAL quarterfinals with a win on Thursday, and they helped Riverside to a pair of golds in the 200 and 400 free relays and a second-place finish in the 200 medley relay.
To top it all off, Joe Roth, a freshman, set a WPIAL record by winning the 100 back with a time of 50.92.
Northgate, which finished second with a team score of 201.5, was trying to become the first WPIAL AA school to win two team championships in the same year but fell just short. The girls team captured the AA championship earlier in the day.
The first-place finishers in the championship meet automatically move on to the PIAA championships on March 19, at Cumberland Valley High School.
The WPIAL Class AAA championships are Sunday at Upper St. Clair.
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