More records fall, North Allegheny girls win 15th straight team title at WPIAL swimming championships

Friday, March 3, 2023 | 8:47 PM

For the second straight day, most of the excitement and drama at the WPIAL swimming championships at Pitt’s Trees Pool happened in Class 2A in the afternoon session.

Five more WPIAL records fell and the team competition for second and third place for the girls, and first place for the boys, came down to the final relay events.

The first record breakers were familiar names and not totally unexpected.

Lily King from Mt. Pleasant earned another gold medal with a record-setting time of 48.58 in the girls 100 free. Same for Ellwood City’s Joe Roth. The junior, who plays basketball for Ellwood City and swims via a co-op for Riverside, broke his own WPIAL record in the 100 back by posting a 49.40.

The final individual record breaker came from Mt. Pleasant in the boys 100 breast as Joseph Gardner finished in 55.81.

The final two races, the 400 free relays, saw two records fall as well as some team championship hopes dashed.

On the girls side, Mt. Pleasant’s team of Reegan Brown, McKenna Mizikar, Trinity Graft, and King broke their own record with a time of 3:32.07. The Vikings girls set two relay records on Day 1, including breaking another record they set in the 200 free relay.

Mt. Pleasant (290) won the girls team title for the second straight year.

In the 400 free relay, Quaker Valley had a chance to overtake Northgate but was unable to do so and finished third behind the Flames in the rankings, 198-189. Kiski Area finished fourth for the girls, due in large part to Eliza Miller.

The junior easily won the 500 free with a time of 5:09.17 and anchored the 400 free relay team to a fourth-place finish.

The Kiski Area boys team came into the day in third place, trailing Indiana by 41 points and also Northgate, but because of the event order, the Cavaliers knew they had a chance to finish first.

Their 400 free relay team was told to play it safe to grab enough points to win. If playing it safe means winning a gold medal and breaking a WPIAL record, then that’s what they did.

The team of Justin Tucker, Landon Seman, Parker Sterlitz and Levi Hansen posted a 3:10.23, giving Kiski Area 228 points and its first team title.

“The last relay for the season has been our bread and butter,” Kiski Area coach Ryan Berberich said. “I couldn’t be happier for my boys. My girls team swam incredibly well. It’s just a great day for Kiski Area.”

Sterlitz (4:32) also took gold in the boys 500 free.

Sterlitz and Hansen, headed to West Virginia and Cincinnati respectively, are the team leaders, Berberich said.

“Great leaders,” he said. “They eat and sleep swimming. They know when they’re on, they know when they’re off and how to swim through those times. They’re just great young men.”

Ella Menear from Mapletown (girls 100 back) and Peyton Scott from Indiana (girls 100 breast) also won gold medals.

Indiana and Northgate tied for second with 206 points, while North Catholic (201) points finished fourth.

Preston Kessler from Indiana was impressive again as the sophomore won the boys 100 free.

One other eventful showing was provided by the Hampton Talbots.

In the girls 100 back, Adrianna Grimm, Rita Khoury and freshman Libby Sheets all won their heats, with Lainey Sheets, Libby’s twin, finishing second behind Menear at 56.65.

Couple that with senior Ben Sheets (52.51) winning a bronze in the boys 100 back, and it was quite a successful stretch for the Talbots.

“We just always feel we have a stroke day, and we tend towards the backstroke,” said Hampton coach Morgan Zweygardt. “We’re always looking at the bigger picture and what the goals are, and that’s to swim faster for states.”

On the Class 3A docket, make it 15 years and counting for the WPIAL team championship reign of the North Allegheny girls. The Tigers accomplished that feat with a score of 484.

To sweeten the deal for NA, the boys team captured its first title since 2020 by posting 321.5 points. The championship is the 16th overall for the boys and marks the 27th for the Tigers girls.

“It’s crazy,” North Allegheny senior Lexi Sundgren said of the consecutive championships. “Going into this program, there have always been high expectations, and they’ve been carried throughout, and that’s what keeps us going.”

The only individual winner on Day 2 for North Allegheny was William Gao, who won the 100 back with a time of 52.33. The junior was a bronze medalist in that event in 2022.

North Allegheny did win three silver medals Friday.

Sundgren (5:06.77 in the 500 free), Natalie Sens (1:04.05 in the 100 breast) and the girls 400 free relay team (3:28.59) were all second-place finishers.

“I’m not really happy with my performances, but I’m OK with it,” said Sundgren, who was battling illness throughout the season. “I’m just going to try and forget about it and use it as motivation (for states).”

Upper St. Clair’s Kaitlyn Connors (50.64) and Patton Graziano (46.51) from Penn-Trafford won the 100-yard freestyle events.

In the 500 free races, Zoe Poe from South Fayette (5:11.68) and Central Catholic’s McClellan Clark (4:33.36) were the endurance winners.

In the 100 back, sophomore Sylvia Roy from Mt. Lebanon won her second consecutive gold medal with a time of 53.80.

Pine-Richland’s Sarah Shaffer captured the 100 breast in 1:03.17, while Cornell-bound Haihan Xu from Seneca Valley captured another individual gold medal in that event, finishing at 56.06.

Last year’s boys champions, Seneca Valley, finished second with 260 points.

The Fox Chapel girls 400 free relay team and the boys team from Mt. Lebanon won the final Class 3A events to finish out the two-day championships.

For the Foxes, the team of Sarah Pasquella, Talia Bugel, Payton O’Toole and Sophie Shao were silver medalists in the 200 medley relay Thursday, and those four added gold today.

“Sarah (a sophomore) did tremendous leading off the relay with a lifetime best,” said Fox Chapel coach Dan Taylor. “For us to go back-to-back in the 400 free relay, those other girls take a lot of pride in that.”

Pasquella’s sister Ariana was on that team last year with the three seniors who were victorious again this season.

Mt. Lebanon (240.5) finished third, with the Fox Chapel boys (174) placing fourth for the second straight year.

In the girls team standings, Fox Chapel was second with 314 points. Mt. Lebanon (216.5) and Seneca Valley (175) finished third and fourth.

“I’m just so thrilled with the kids,” Taylor said of his Foxes. “It’s been a great season of work. We believe in a fast start at the championships and that has paid off.”

The official psych sheets for the PIAA Championship meets are due out Sunday. The state championships will be held March 14-18 at Bucknell University.


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