North Allegheny captures 13th straight WPIAL girls swimming championship

Sunday, March 7, 2021 | 3:30 PM

For some it is an unlucky number, but for the North Allegheny girls swimmers, the number 13 was special at Upper St. Clair High School on Sunday as the Tigers captured their 13th straight WPIAL team championship.

After building a large lead by sweeping the top three spots the Class 3A diving championships last weekend, NA did not disappoint, medaling in every race but two on the afternoon to finish with 425 points.

Tigers coach Patrick Wentzel said the girls know the expectations as they progress through the program.

“It’s hard not to see that when you enter the pool (at NA),” he said. “The tradition is there, and that’s what we strive to meet each year.”

Wentzel also thought the girls did not swim well at the beginning of the meet.

“We haven’t swum our greatest, but we are swimming hard and tough and that’s all you can ask for,” he said.

Molly Smyers, Olivia Kisow, Ella Ogden and Quinn Frost earned bronze in the 200-yard medley relay to get the day started. Lexi Sundgren, Natalie Sens, Haley Miller and Frost took silver in the 200 free relay, and Smyers, Isabella Dietz, Kisow and Sundgren capped off the afternoon with gold (3:29.40) in the 400 free relay.

Smyers, a George Washington recruit, cruised to the gold in the 500-yard freestyle in 5 minutes, 5.39 seconds. It was Smyers’ fourth consecutive gold medal in the event.

“It feels amazing, but there has been an amount of pressure,” Smyers said. “It feels good to just work hard every year and to know that that hard work paid off.”

Sundgren (200 free, 100 free), Sens (50 free) and Ogden (100 fly) earned silver medals, and Kisow took bronze in the 200 IM.

Seneca Valley, which placed second in the team standings with 249 points, also had a strong showing in the championships. Ria Dietz, Edie Sawyer, Kendall Craig and Peri Gaguzis took silver in the 200 medley relay.

Seneca Valley coach Brian Blackwell was happy for his team and seniors Sawyer and Craig.

“I’m so happy for her (Sawyer) because she didn’t finish last season the way she wanted,” Blackwell said. “And Kendall has helped in everything that has went on this year. She has done a great job.”

Sawyer, an Ohio recruit, broke the pool record at USC with a time of 1:04.20 in the 100 breaststroke, a record she set earlier in the year. Craig, who is committed to Akron, finished fourth in the 200 IM and helped the 200 free relay team to a bronze medal.

Host Upper St. Clair finished third (223 points), with the Connors sisters leading the way. Senior Taylor Connors, who is committed to Miami (Ohio), won gold in the 200 and 100 freestyle races, while her sister, freshman Kaitlyn Connors, set the pool record with a gold medal time of 23.75 in the 50 freestyle. The sisters also helped USC win the 200 free relay (1:36.06) with Abby Rutkowski and Amanda Aidar.

“It’s great to be here today,” Upper St. Clair assistant coach Mike Densmore said. “All of our swimmers stepped up and the Connors sisters were awesome.”

Fox Chapel, which finished fourth in the team scoring, brought home three gold medals. The 200 medley relay team finished first (1:45.16), sophomore Sophie Shao won the 100 butterfly (54.50) and fellow 10th grader Talia Bugel (55.93) won the 100 backstroke.

With its 13th team championship, North Allegheny has tied the Norwin girls volleyball team (1973-85) for the most consecutive WPIAL girls team titles. The Tigers had already bested Oakland Catholic’s 11 straight girls swimming titles from (2000-10).

The first-place finishers from the WPIAL championships earned the only guaranteed berths into the state championship meet. The rest of the PIAA field will be determined by at-large bids from throughout the state. The state meet will be held March 20, at Cumberland Valley High School.

Watch an archived video stream broadcast of the WPIAL Class AAA championships on the TribLive High School Sports Network.

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