Mt. Pleasant girls swimmers finish off PIAA team championship in style

Thursday, March 16, 2023 | 11:10 PM

LEWISBURG — After receiving their PIAA Class 2A championship trophy Thursday at Bucknell, the coaches and swimmers of the Mt. Pleasant girls team jumped into the water to celebrate.

It was a repeat of the plunge they made at WPIALs as the Vikings swept both postseason team accolades.

“So many people have supported us from home watching on TV, and the parents are here cheering us on,” Mt. Pleasant coach Sandy Felice said. “The boys team has been so supportive. It really takes a whole community. We’re going to have a parade tomorrow.

“These kids are the most hard-working kids I’ve ever known, and I’ve been coaching for 40 years. They all hold each other accountable for finishing a workout and doing their best every day. This is so special.”

Mt. Pleasant’s talent at the top and depth throughout multiple events clinched the championship with 218.50 team points, 100.50 points more than runner-up Wyoming Seminary.

Mt. Pleasant captured two more state titles Thursday, giving it five overall for the two days of competition. Sophomore Lily King won the state gold in the 100-yard freestyle, and the 400 free relay of King and seniors Reegan Brown, McKenna Mizikar, and Trinity Graft won with a top time of 3 minutes, 31.57 seconds.

With the 400 free relay victory, Mt. Pleasant finished a sweep of all three girls relay titles, a feat not often seen at the state meet.

“Our goal definitely was to swim fast in the 400 and complete the sweep,” Graft said. “We knew with our (No. 1 seeds) in each one, that we were in good shape, but we knew we had to swim really well if we were going to be able to win each one. We did that, and it was so exciting. We all tried our best and were able to achieve our goals.”

King came in as the defending champion in the 100 free, and she had a state record on her mind.

She swam a 48.58 at WPIALs and was focused on taking down the Class 2A record of 49.57 from 2013.

King took care of the record in the preliminaries with a time of 49.00. The time also was better, by one one-hundredth of a second, than the Class 3A record and Bucknell Pool record of 49.01.

She came back in the finals and swam to her second straight 100 free crown, lowering her record time to 48.93.

“Obviously, I am disappointed I didn’t get my best time,” said King, who ended the two-day meet with four state-championship medals. “I am not really sure what happened, but I am still happy with how I did. I was really hoping I would get the (state) record and the pool record on top of that. Maybe next time I swim the 100, I will get my best time. It will come.

“But overall, I am just happy with the way I swam both days.”

Sophomore Kiersten O’Connor and senior SaraJo Gardner added state medals in the 100 backstroke with a fifth (57.79) and a seventh (58.51), respectively.

On the boys side, Mt. Pleasant sophomore Joseph Gardner sowed the seeds of gold in the Class 2A 100 breaststroke.

He focused his attention on breaking through to the top of the podium after a second in the event at Bucknell last year.

Gardner added the PIAA title — won in a time of 55.23 — to the WPIAL title secured March 3 at Pitt.

“Coming in from last year, my goal was to get the win, and this means a lot to me,” he said. “The mentality of it all after last year was that I had to want it the most. Clearly, today showed that I worked hard, and I deserved to win this. I had a lot of confidence fueling me as I was seeded first by over a second. Based off of times before, I knew I could win it.”

Gardner finished his second state-meet experience with a trio of medals. On Wednesday, he helped the Vikings 200 medley relay finish third before taking silver in the 200 individual medley.

The Mt. Pleasant boys, despite a disqualification in the 400 free relay, finished eighth overall in the team standings with 102 team points.

Indiana, Kiski Area, Northgate, Riverside and North Catholic were third through seventh, respectively, behind state champ Cathedral Prep from District 10 and Bishop McDevitt from District 3.

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

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