Kiski Area freshmen to square off at WCCA swim meet

Thursday, January 23, 2020 | 5:50 PM

Freshmen Parker Sterlitz and Levi Hansen are no strangers to head-to-head competition as the Kiski Area teammates grew up battling each other at various club meets.

“Levi and I go way back with racing,” Sterlitz said. “We were up there as the top two most of the time.”

Sterlitz and Hansen again find themselves in each other’s crosshairs with a title on the line.

They are the top two seeds in the boys 500-yard freestyle at Saturday’s Westmoreland County Coaches Association Championships at Derry.

“It’s going to be a good experience,” Sterlitz said. “Not only do we get to race and push each other, we get to test ourselves against some other really great swimmers. We’re both excited for this. It’s going to be a really good race.”

Sterlitz owns the top seed with a time of 4 minutes, 52.57 seconds.

“Now that I see it, it gives me more confidence, and I’m ready to go in as the No. 1 seed, give it my all, and hopefully finish No. 1,” he said.

Hansen is the No. 2 seed with a time of 4:53.66.

“I think if I can do well here, that will help me as I get ready for WPIALs,” he said. “This is a good test.”

Sterlitz and Hansen are nearly six seconds clear of the rest of the 500 field, which includes 2019 WCCA 200 free champion Austin Prokopec, a junior from Penn-Trafford. Prokopec is the third seed with a time of 4:59.15.

“They’ve both received the same training, so what’s it going to come down to in the race?” Kiski Area coach Lisa Pepka said. “It will be a neat race to watch. Hopefully, they can keep the top two spots.”

Sterlitz also hopes for big things as the No. 2 seed in the 100 backstroke (57.26), and Hansen will try to make his move as the No. 4 seed in the 200 free (1:50.48).

A contingent of swimmers from Class AAA Kiski Area and Class AA Burrell and Valley will test their mettle against a group that includes WPIAL and PIAA champions such as Belle Vernon’s Ian Shahan and Mt. Pleasant’s Heather Gardner.

The WCCA weekend begins Friday evening with the diving portion of the championships, but the Cavaliers, Bucs and Vikings don’t have anyone entered.

Saturday’s swimming timed finals for each individual and relay event begin at 10 a.m., and the top six finishers earn medals.

The WCCA meet is one of the few times in the high school season where competitors from both classifications go up against each other. While the heats in each event have a mix of Class AAA and AA competitors, separate team champions again will be crowned.

Last year, Franklin Regional edged Penn-Trafford for the Class AAA boys title, while Penn-Trafford came out on top in the Class AAA girls team standings.

The Mt. Pleasant girls and Belle Vernon boys brought home Class AA team crowns.

“I do feel like this is a huge opportunity for all of our swimmers,” Burrell coach Samantha Bindas said. “They take the time to focus on the specific details we give them, and they really tend to shine at this meet. We always see big time drops. It gives the kids a chance to swim against Triple-A teams, which is something we don’t get to do very often. We are definitely excited.”

Burrell freshman Payton O’Toole makes her WCCA debut, and she will do so as one of the top seeds in the girls 500 free. She is seeded second to Norwin’s Lizzie Smeltzer (5:16.26) with a season-best time of 5:23.78.

She is chasing the Burrell school record in the girls 500 — a 5:17.04 — established by Bindas in 2004.

O’Toole also is the fourth seed in the 200 free (2:03.41). Smeltzer owns that top seed as well.

“I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to swim against the Triple-A kids,” O’Toole said. “I am looking to place well, but I am also hoping for my best swims and best times. It should be fun.”

Also highly seeded for Saturday is Kiski Area sophomore Jack Coleman, who makes his return to the WCCA meet after placing fourth last year in the 200 IM and 100 back.

Coleman is the No. 3 seed in the 200 IM (2:05.04) and the No. 4 seed in the 100 butterfly (55.86).

“Last year (at WCCA) really helped me get a good look at who my competition was and where I stood as a freshman,” Coleman said. “It showed me how much better I still needed to be to get to where I want to go.”

Other teams competing include Hempfield, Latrobe, Greensburg Salem, Derry, Kiski School, Ligonier Valley, Southmoreland and Yough.

The Kiski Area 400 free relay (Sterlitz, Coleman, Hansen and freshman Glenn Fowkes) and 200 medley relay (Sterlitz, Coleman, Hansen and senior Dean Fowkes) are seeded in medal contention at No. 3 and No. 6, respectively.

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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