Neshannock’s McBeth, Belle Vernon’s Shahan spark WPIAL gold rush at state swim meet

Friday, March 19, 2021 | 11:16 PM

Neshannock’s Conner McBeth and Belle Vernon’s Ian Shahan picked up where they left off from WPIALs in the 50-yard freestyle as the seniors did battle for state gold at the PIAA Class AA boys swim championships Friday at Cumberland Valley High School.

They finished tied for the WPIAL title March 6 with a WPIAL-record time of 20.36 seconds.

McBeth’s 50 time Friday was 20.26, faster than the previous state record of 20.45.

But Shahan did him one better and recorded a time of 20 seconds flat to claim his sixth individual state gold.

“Obviously, I wanted that first in the 50 and to get the state record, but I am still happy with my race because I dropped some time,” McBeth said.

Despite the close runner-up finish in the 50, McBeth wasn’t done. He came back as the top seed in the 100 free and put his stamp on the state title with a time of 44.56, two seconds faster than Jacob Wade, a sophomore from Susquehannock of District 3.

“I felt good and ready to do what I needed to do (in the 100),” McBeth said.

McBeth swam the 50 and 100 free every year at states and finished with seven individual medals.

Last year, he was the de facto state champ in the 50 free as he was the top seed in the event before the PIAA canceled the Class AA state meet over growing covid concerns.

Shahan came back immediately after the 50 free and claimed his third state title in the 100 fly with a time of 48.77. He caps his PIAA career with six individual state medals to go along with his seven WPIAL individual golds.

In all, WPIAL boys swimmers won six state titles Friday. Earlier in the day, Mapletown’s Ella Menear won a state title in the girls 100 backstroke.

Indiana senior Kyle Thome, an IUP commit, kicked off the wins for the WPIAL with gold in the 200 free with a time of 1:39.74. He bested runner-up Noah Ferker from District 1’s Lower Moreland by 2.40 seconds. Thome dropped 1.39 seconds from his WPIAL-title time.

He came back in the 500 free and won with a time of 4:40.22, just eight one-hundredths of a second faster than Notre Dame Green Pond junior RJ Farina (4:40.30).

“I really trained well over the past two weeks, but I was super nervous for both races,” Thome said. “I probably just over-thought things too much. I am happy with how I swam, and it’s a great feeling to be able to leave my senior year with state gold medals.”

Riverside captured 200 free relay gold as senior Graham Kralic, junior Alexander Roth, sophomore Sam Kline and freshman Joseph Roth swam to a winning time of 1:26.52.

The race to the finish was close as the Panthers edged District 2’s Wyoming Seminary by five one-hundredths of a second.

A busy Friday gives way to a playoff Saturday for the Roth brothers as they will join their Ellwood City basketball teammates for a PIAA Class 3A home quarterfinal game against District 9 champion Brookville. Tip off is at 1 p.m.

The Riverside 200 medley relay of the Roths, Kralic and freshman Ryan Turner kicked off the boys meet with a silver medal (1:35.27).

Hampton (1:36.02) was third. The Talbots quartet of seniors Ethan Apaliski and Richie Donato, junior Will Retsch and sophomore Ben Sheets won the WPIAL title over Riverside by a margin of just three one-hundredths of a second.

Indiana senior Isaac Griffith made a run at the 100 fly title, but he landed in a tie for silver with Bloomsburg senior Bryant LaCroix. Both touched the wall in 50.54.

Joseph Roth almost had his first state gold medal in the 100 back just two weeks after taking home WPIAL gold in the event. But Peter Kawash, a senior from District 2’s Lakeland, edged Roth by a razor-thin two one-hundredths of a second – 50.34 to 50.36.

Donato picked up silver for Hampton in the 100 breaststroke as he clocked a time of 58.03.

Riverside led the WPIAL in the team standings with a runner-up finish to Bishop McDevitt from District 3. McDevitt scored 142.50 team points to Riverside’s 137.

Bishop McDevitt and Riverside’s 400 free relay teams finished second and third, respectively, to cap the meet. The Roth brothers, senior Hayen Panek and freshman Ryan Turner combined to swim to a bronze medal in a time of 3:13.17.

The WPIAL had five of the top 10 teams in the Class AA boys team standings. In addition to Riverside, Hampton finished third, Belle Vernon tied for fifth, Indiana was seventh and Northgate placed ninth.

“This felt a little like WPIALs Part 2,” Kralic said. “I would come out and say that the WPIAL has some of the deepest talent in the entire state of Pennsylvania. It was astounding what we were able to do here. I could go through this gym right now and count all of the Division I athletes and how many of them are from the WPIAL. It’s really cool to see.”

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

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