Matheny sets national record at PIAA championships

Sunday, March 17, 2019 | 5:01 AM

Josh Matheny was witness to history at last year’s PIAA Class AAA swimming championships at Bucknell University.

The Upper St. Clair sophomore saw the North Allegheny boys 400-yard freestyle relay swim into the record books and establish a new National Federation of High Schools record.

On Saturday evening, Matheny had the chance to make a little history of his own, and he took full advantage.

In the finals of the boys 100 breaststroke, Matheny swam to a time of 52.52 seconds and surpassed the previous NFHS record of 52.65 set in 2016.

“I knew a couple of weeks ago what the time was,” Matheny said. “Since my best time was 52.89, I figured I would just go for it, and it happened.

“I knew as soon as I dove into the water that it was going to be a good race,” he said. “I didn’t know exactly what I was going to go. I was thinking to myself halfway through the race that it could be good, and it was quite good.”

Matheny came to the event as the No. 1 seed after swimming a record time of 54.70 at the WPIAL championships March 1.

He broke the state record with a 53.64 in the preliminaries. The previous record of 53.67 had stood since 2000.

“You look at all the records on the heat sheets and think it would be pretty cool to have your name there,” Matheny said. “When I looked up at the board and saw that I had the record, it was a mix of surprise and elation.”

Last year, Matheny won the state title in the 100 breast with a time of 54.55.

“It’s amazing how this meet gets faster and faster every year,” Matheny said.

The North Allegheny boys 400 free relay followed Matheny and capped a strong two days for the AAA WPIAL swimmers with a state title in a time of 2:59.80. Senior Jack Wright and junior Rick Mihm, members of last year’s relay that set the national record at 2:53.81, joined forces this year with senior John Ehling and junior Branko Kosanovich on the winning relay.

“To go under three minutes with two new guys is a milestone in itself,” Wright said.

The WPIAL finished the two days of AAA competition with 11 state championships, including four on Saturday.

Butler junior Laura Goettler won the WPIAL’s first championship Saturday as she edged out Fox Chapel freshman Zoe Skirboll by 10 one-hundredths of a second in the finals of the girls 100 breast.

She responded after placing fifth in the 200 individual medley Friday.

“(Friday) wasn’t such a good race for me in the finals, so I kind of used that to fuel my energy for today,” Goettler said. “Zoe is a great competitor and a great athlete. It’s an exciting experience every time I get to race her.”

Goettler was runner-up in the 100 breast last year.

North Allegheny’s Rick Mihm produced the WPIAL’s second state crown as he held off Abington (District 1) senior Matt Bonnell. Mihm swam to a personal-best time of 4:23.48.

Mihm’s championship comes on the heels of his near miss Friday in the 200 IM. He finished second (1:44.97) to North Penn junior Sean Faikish by just nine one-hundredths of a second.

“I was pretty happy with my time (Friday),” Mihm said. “I had a good race, but I just got out-touched at the wall. I just tried to forget about it and focus on today’s race with a good prelim swim.”

The two Saturday state titles helped the North Allegheny boys put a firm grip on the first-place team trophy for the third year in a row.

The Tigers won with 279 team points, 83 more than runner-up North Penn from District 1.

“This is only the third time a WPIAL team has won three straight state titles,” North Allegheny coach Patrick Wenzel said. “Our boys are a team. They respect each other and swim for each other. I couldn’t ask for a better group. We had some great swims, and I’m proud of every one of them.”

Other top finishes for North Allegheny on Saturday included Wright with a second in the 100 free (43.81), Ehling’s third alongside Mihm in the 500 free (4:30.16), and senior Jerry Chen and sophomore Jacob McCarran with a fifth (56.54) and seventh (57.41), respectively, in the 100 breast.

Upper St. Clair senior Jack Fitzpatrick picked up a runner-up finish in the 100 backstroke with a time of 47.67.

Fox Chapel sophomore David Manelis did the same in the diving competition.

Mt. Lebanon’s Trinity Ward started out the Saturday championship session with a third-place finish in the 100 freestyle (50.73).

The Lady Blue Devils finished with 112 team points to place fifth in the girls team standings. North Allegheny was eighth (104.5 points).

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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