Hard work pays off in WPIAL gold for Pine-Richland swimmer

Sunday, March 12, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Sarah Anne Shaffer realized a dream at the WPIAL swim meet when she crossed the finish line first at Pitt’s Trees Pool to win her first individual title.

Shaffer, a sophomore at Pine-Richland, had the fastest seed time in 100 breaststroke going into the district meet and backed it up by winning the WPIAL championship in the event.

“It felt rewarding after all the hard work I’ve put in this season and even going back to last season,” Shaffer said. “I just trusted my training and recognized that I had what it took to win. I believed in myself and trusted the process.”

Shaffer finished third in the 100 breaststroke last year, but shaved nearly two seconds off her time to beat defending champ Natalie Sens of North Allegheny. She finished with a time of 1:02.95, while Sens took runner up at 1:03.73.

She became the first girls swimmer from Pine-Richland to win an individual title since 2013 grad Kristen Murslack, who won five in her time with the Rams before swimming in college for Auburn.

An added bonus for Shaffer was getting to share the podium with her older sister Elizabeth, who finished fifth. Both Shaffers qualified for the PIAA meet in 100 breaststroke and are members of the 200 medley relay team that earned a trip to states along with Delaney Allen, Mila Cribbs and Anna Schomaker.

“It’s Elizabeth’s senior year, so it will be nice to have one last race with her in the same event,” Shaffer said. “It’s really great that we get to share the relay as well. All of the other girls on the relay team are seniors, so it’s fun to have one last hurrah with them and go out strong.

“The reason I got into swimming in the first place is because Elizabeth swam and I wanted to be just like her as any younger sister would.”

On the boys side, Justin Bogacz (100 butterfly), Matthew Carper (100 breaststroke/200 individual medley) and Reece Rupert (100 butterfly/100 backstroke) qualified for the PIAA meet in individual events. All three join Brennan Kirkpatrick, Andrew Kirkpatrick and Gavin Rupert on two relay teams (200 freestyle/400 freestyle) that made states.

This is Shaffer’s second crack at the state meet, which is scheduled for March 15-18 at Bucknell. She finished 10th overall in the 100 breaststroke last year and narrowly missed making the finals. She took home second in the consolation race.

She’s been in the pool training and working on race strategy and has her sights set on cracking the top eight and competing for state gold.

“I definitely want to qualify for the championship meet,” Shaffer said. “From there, I just want to go out that night at finals, leave it all out there and see what the result is.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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