Led by trio of divers, North Allegheny girls win program’s 8th team title at PIAA swim meet

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Saturday, March 18, 2023 | 11:37 PM


LEWISBURG — The North Allegheny girls swimming and diving team had a distinct points advantage even before the swimming consolation and championship finals began Friday afternoon at the PIAA Class 3A championships Bucknell University.

Christina Shi, Lola Malarky and Juliet Hood placed first, third and seventh in the diving completion earlier in the day and added 48 points to the team total.

From there, the NA swimming depth took over and continued to produce points. It all added up to the team’s second Class 3A state team championship in three years and the eighth overall in program history.

“This is a resilient bunch of kids,” North Allegheny coach Corky Semler said. “We did not have a great swimming weekend, but yet they stayed tough and got into the races they needed and got the places they needed. That enabled us to get over the victory line. Obviously, the diving was huge for us and also our depth.”

The Tigers’ 400-yard freestyle relay of senior Lexi Sundgren, freshman Eva Ogden, junior Greta Mott and freshman Claire Bacu took eighth and picked up 22 points.

That gave North Allegheny a 194-point total, 18 more than runner-up Hatboro-Horsham (176).

“I am so proud of everyone on this team,” Sundgren said. “We’ve worked so hard and have been through so much together. Everyone had so much great energy the past two days. I am so thankful and blessed to be with these girls.”

Sundgren earned 16 points for her team with a bronze medal in the 500 free. She moved up from the sixth seed after the preliminaries and dropped 3.57 seconds to finish with a time of 4:54.98.

She came in seeded 10th after taking second at WPIALs (5:01.35).

Junior Natalie Sens moved from fourth in the 100 breast after the prelims up to third and scored an additional 16 points for the Tigers. She finished with a time of 1:03.73.

Mt. Lebanon finished fifth (125.5) in the Class 3A girls team standings.

With a runner-up finish from sophomore Sarah Pasquella and seniors Talia Bugel, Sophie Shao and Payton O’Toole in the 400 free relay (3:28.05), Fox Chapel rose to eighth overall (113 points).

The time is a new school record by one one-hundredth of a second. The previous top mark was established at WPIALs on March 3 at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

“I didn’t know we broke the record,” said Bugel, who will swim in college at Bucknell. “I was just happy we got second because we really wanted it. When we walked down (from the blocks) and they told us we had the record, we were so happy.”

The WPIAL had a banner four days of championship performance. Between Class 2A and 3A, WPIAL swimmers and divers brought home 17 state titles.

The 17th came from Mt. Lebanon sophomore Sylvia Roy in the girls 100 backstroke. She had designs on the title Saturday after taking silver in the 50 free on Friday.

After touching the wall in 53.28 of the 100 back championship heat, she had the gold she was looking for.

Roy topped runner-up Jade Castro, a senior from State College, by a full half second.

“This is just the best feeling ever,” Roy said. “Seeing my name up on the board with ‘champion’ beside it, and also seeing all of my teammates cheering me on, it is really exciting.”

She shared the 100-back podium with older sister Vivian, a senior who place fifth overall (56.51).

“I was able to take a whole second off prelims,” said Sylvia Roy, who took fifth last year in the 100 back in her PIAA debut. “I didn’t think I was going to go that fast. I am just really proud of myself and all the work I put in. It really paid off.”

In addition to the Fox Chapel girls 400 free relay, Seneca Valley senior Haihan Xu also grabbed silver in the boys 100 breast.

He clocked a finals time of 55.21 to finish runner-up to Conestoga junior Jake Wang (53.92).

Xu’s 17 points earned in the 100 breast contributed to Seneca Valley’s sixth-place team total of 113.

The Raiders also got 36 team points from a trio of divers.

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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