North Allegheny again sweeps WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships

Friday, February 28, 2020 | 2:32 PM

Most high school swim teams don’t practice cannonballs.

North Allegheny has perfected them.

The Tigers boys and girls teams performed their typical post-meet group cannonball celebration Friday afternoon after again sweeping the WPIAL Class AAA titles at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

It was the 12th straight title for the girls, while the boys captured their ninth straight golden trophy.

“It’s very stressful for me because that’s a goal they set out for every year,” NA coach Patrick Wenzel said. “It’s just really satisfying to see kids excel and reach their goals. There’s nothing I like more. That’s why I do this job. I’m really proud of them and really proud of the way they work toward getting those goals.”

The boys won six events over the two-day meet in accumulating 380 points, topping Seneca Valley (252), Hampton (185), Upper St. Clair (175) and Franklin Regional (163).

Led by six gold medalists, the NA girls bested the field with 422 points, ahead of Mt. Lebanon (242), Fox Chapel (194), Seneca Valley (192) and Upper St. Clair (165).

“Just support each and every one,” said senior Tori Buerger of the team’s success. “Just have fun, don’t get sad. Always pump each other up.”

Buerger was one of the NA girls’ top performers, building off Thursday’s gold medals in the 200 IM and 200 medley relay with two more Friday. She won the 100-yard backstroke in 54.21 seconds and also was part of NA’s champion 400 freestyle relay (3:27.75) with Lexi Sundgren, Olivia Kisow and Molly Smyers.

“She was a little bit mad with the way she was seeded,” Wenzel said of the Kentucky recruit. “I like seeing her swim mad.”

Smyers, a junior, added to the medal haul by winning the 500 freestyle in 5:00.32.

Senior Rick Mihm added to his medal collection, capturing his third straight title in the 500 freestyle (4:31.91). He also joined the NA boys 400 freestyle relay team of Josh Galecki, Ethan Song and Alex Grahor to win in 3:05.32.

“I was a little disappointed with the time (in the 500), but I got the win,” said Mihm, a Stanford recruit. “At this meet, that’s really all that matters. I’m swimming for the team. I’m glad I got some points on the board.”

Senior Branko Kosanovich also captured a title for North Allegheny on Friday, racing to first place in the 100 freestyle in 45.80.

WPIAL records fall

Josh Matheny already owned the WPIAL record in the 100 backstroke. Friday, he dropped that time a little more.

The Upper St. Clair senior topped the field in 54.43 seconds, edging his record from last year by 0.27.

“It always feels good to be better than you were last year,” he said. “And it always feels good to win.”

It was Matheny’s third WPIAL title in the breaststoke. He also has won two PIAA titles in the event and last year set a National Federation of State High School Associations record (52.52).

• Seneca Valley’s Owen Blazer continues to live up to his last name, as he blazed past the field to win the 100 backstroke in 47.83, breaking a WPIAL record set last year by Upper St. Clair’s Jack Fitzpatrick (48.20).

“This competition is second to none,” said Blazer, who also won the 100 butterfly Thursday. “I’ve been swimming with most of these guys since I was 8 years old. It just means a lot more to be here with all these guys and competing with them.”

• Gateway senior Olivia Livingston claimed her eighth individual gold medal by winning the 100-yard freestyle, tying 1984 Penn Hills grad Melanie Buddemyer for the most individual titles in district history.

It’s a mark that can never be broken, as swimmers can compete in just two individual events at the championship meet each year.

“It’s insane. I never thought I’d be able to do something like this,” said Livingston, who touched the wall in 50.15 seconds. “When I came (to WPIALs) in ninth grade, I had no idea I’d be able to do what I did. It was just insane to think I can be put into the same category as people like Melanie. I’m really blessed.”

Butler champ bounces back

Butler senior Laura Goettler rebounded from an uncharacteristic runner-up finish in Thursday’s 200 IM to win the 100 breaststroke in 1:03.17 on Friday.

The Duquesne recruit had won three straight titles in the 200 IM.

“(I was motivated) a little big after getting second in the 200 IM,” she said. “I was definitely motivated to get first in this event.”

The WPIAL champions in each event automatically qualify for the PIAA championships March 11-14 at Bucknell. The remaining qualifiers will be decided based on times from all 12 districts.

Check out the archived video stream broadcast of this event on Trib HSSN.

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.

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