Kiski Area boys rally, win team title at WPIAL Class 2A swimming championships

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Friday, March 3, 2023 | 8:18 PM


The Kiski Area boys swim team trailed Indiana by 12 points heading into the 400-yard freestyle relay Friday at the WPIAL Class 2A championships.

The top-seeded Cavaliers quartet of sophomore Justin Tucker, junior Landon Seman, and seniors Parker Sterlitz and Levi Hansen raced to the championship with a strong final burst.

Hansen brought it home on the anchor leg, and the relay had a WPAL title and a WPIAL-record in a time of 3 minutes, 10.23 seconds.

The win gave Kiski Area 40 team points, and they won the team title with 228, 22 more than Indiana and Northgate, who finished tied for second.

“We just worked so hard for this,” Hansen said of the 400 relay record and the Kiski boys’ first-ever team championship.

“Nothing could compare to how good that felt (to win the 400 relay) and to clinch the title. Day-in and day-out, we were always swimming hard with the goal of achieving something like this.”

After receiving the team-title trophy, the Kiski boys swimmers and their coaches took a celebratory plunge into the pool.

“It was a total team effort both days,” Kiski coach Ryan Berberich said.

“I kept telling them to hold serve with their seeds or bump up, and we would be fine. For the most part, we were able to do that. A couple of kids dropped from their seeds, but they swam really good times, and I will take that any time.”

The Kiski boys earned five medals on Day 2, and Sterlitz led the way individually with a WPIAL title in the 500 free.

The West Virginia commit swam to a winning time of 4:32.20 and edged Northgate senior Matthew Percell (4:33.42).

“I’ll tell you right now, I was looking at Matt the whole time,” Sterlitz said.

“Matt and I know each other really well. He’s a second-half (of a race) swimmer, so I knew he was going to have a lot left in the end. I kind of just put my head down and finish as hard as I could.”

Sterlitz said he was excited for the Cavaliers’ overall presence in the boys 500 top five as fellow senior Levi Hansen took fourth (4:49.38) and junior Landon Seman was fifth (4:51.38).

The Kiski Area girls finished fourth in the Class 2A team standings with 168.5 points. Mt. Pleasant won its second straight Class 2A crown with 290 points. Northgate took second (198), and Quaker Valley (189) was third.

Junior Eliza Miller had the biggest highlight for the Cavaliers girls on Day 2.

Seeded first by 16 seconds, she claimed her 500 title in a time of 5:09.17, a couple of seconds off her seed time and school record (5:05.31) but 12 seconds faster than the rest of the field.

“I am super excited about (the WPIAL title),” said Miller, who moved her second-day swim from the 100 breast to the 500 for this year’s WPIAL finals.

“I was kind of upset with my time because I had a goal of lowering my record and going under five minutes, but it is a good learning experience for states to make sure I don’t go out as fast as I did. I went out way too fast. “

Cavaliers sophomore Amara Sterlitz joined Miller on the 500 medals podium with a fifth in 5:25.55.

The Kiski girls finished with five top-eight medals on Day 2.

“We can’t wait to get to states and see what we can do,” Berberich said.

In the girls Class 2A 100 breaststroke, Knoch sophomore Giona Lavorini challenged for a WPIAL title. She came in seeded second to Indiana sophomore Peyton Scott.

Lavorini dropped a second and a half from her seed time and took second with a time of 1:03.96, a little more than a second behind Scott’s 1:02.80.

Only the WPIAL champion in each event earns an automatic berth to the PIAA championships, which are March 15-18 at Bucknell University.

The other at-large selections — up to 32 for each individual and relay event — will be determined from all of the district meets across the state. The PIAA plans to release the state-qualifier lists at noon Sunday.

The Fox Chapel girls 400 free relay of sophomore Sarah Pasquella and seniors Talia Bugel, Payton O’Toole and Sophie Shao closed out Class 3A girls meet with a school record of 3:28.06 to capture gold for the second straight year.

They lowered their record time from last year’s WPIAL meet, when they went 3:29.23.

“Our goal was just to go in and swim fast,” O’Toole said.

“We had lost two seniors (Ariana Pasquella and Rei Sperry) who were in the relay last year. But we brought in Sarah and Talia, and they were great additions to the team. We knew we could go fast, and it was so exciting to be able to pull off the win.”

The North Allegheny girls won their 15th straight WPIAL title in dominant fashion with 484 team points.

Fox Chapel, led by three champions, a second-place finish and five thirds over the two days, repeated as runner-up with 297 points, 57 points better than third-place Mt. Lebanon.

“We talked about the team race a little bit, and we knew that North Allegheny always has a big, deep team,” O’Toole said.

“We were prepared to come in for a challenge, and everybody swam so well. Getting runner-up two years in a row, especially against some of these great teams, it’s an amazing feeling.”

The Fox Chapel girls added a pair of thirds: Pasquella in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.60) and Bugel in the 100 backstroke (56.45).

Mt. Lebanon sisters Sylvia and Vivian Roy went 1-2 in the 100 back, as Sylvia, a sophomore, won gold with a time of 53.84.

“I gave it my all in the race,” said Bugel, a Bucknell commit who won the 100 back as a sophomore and was second last year. I had been working hard on my underwaters, and they were a lot better this time.”

The Fox Chapel boys finished the two days with 167 team points, fourth overall behind champion North Allegheny (321.5), runner-up Seneca Valley (260), and third-place Mt. Lebanon (231.5).

The Foxes 400 free relay of senior Emmanuel Drappatz, junior Henry Koloc, and sophomores Owen Howell and Christian Dantey dropped two and a half seconds from their seed time and finished second Friday in a time of 3:21.41.

Dantey brought it home for the Foxes as the anchor leg.

“When I was done, I had the ultimate confidence in Christian to finish it strong for us,” Howell said.

“This team came together pretty much later in the season. We ended up swimming together a couple times, and this lineup got finalized right before the meet. I had a really good feeling we could do what we did.”

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 mlove@triblive.com.

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