North Allegheny girls, Seneca Valley boys get off the blocks quick at WPIAL swim meet

Thursday, March 3, 2022 | 9:20 PM

The North Allegheny girls swimming team’s quest for a 14th straight WPIAL championship got off to a great start Thursday, as the Tigers netted 212 team points to lead after the first session.

On the boys side, Seneca Valley is the first-day leader with 219.5 points. The totals for both schools were bolstered by strong showings in last week’s diving championships.

Christina Shi won gold in the 3A girls competition while Seneca Valley secured spots two through five in the boys meet. The Raiders finished the day strong when the relay team of Dan Simoes, Gavin Blazer, Zach Lozowski and Haihan Shu took the final event, the 200 free relay.

“Our boys were looking to move up in that relay. We ended up third last year,” coach Brian Blackwell said. “We had a really good showing in the (200 medley relay and took second.”

Seneca Valley’s Kevin Donaldson won the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:40.22 to help Seneca Valley to the points lead. The Raiders finished second last year, losing to Upper St. Clair by just 1.5 points. Junior Haihan Xu (1:50.96) edged teammate Dan Simoes (1:51.09) in the 200-yard individual medley.

For North Allegheny, Lexi Sundgren (1:49.00) won the 200 freestyle and teammate Natalie Sens won silver in the 200 IM. The Tigers relay team won the 200 free relay.

Sylvia Roy from Mt. Lebanon won gold in the 50 free with a time of 23.09.

“We’re young and we’re excited,” said Mt. Lebanon coach Tom Donati. “We just saw a freshman go 23 (seconds) in the 50 for her first gold medal.”

Roy’s medal is the first individual medal for the Blue Devils since 2019. The girls team ranks fourth with 124.5 points.

Fox Chapel’s Sophie Shao won gold medals in the 200 IM (2:02.51) and 100 fly (53.85), breaking the 39-year-old WPIAL butterfly record of 54.16 set by Melanie Buddeymeyer in 1983. Shao was also part of the Foxes’ 200 medley relay first-place finish.

The Foxes are in second place with 174 points. Seneca Valley is third with 132 points. On the boys side, North Allegheny ranks second with 154 points and Upper St. Clair is third with 147.

In the Class 2A session, four WPIAL records were set at Trees Pool at the University of Pittsburgh. The first fell early when the Hampton boys won the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:36.92. The Talbots, who won the team title last year, their first in 22-years, lead the 2A boys standings with 158 points.

Senior Will Retsch won gold in the 200 IM with a time of 1:51.81, which set a WPIAL record. In fact, Ben Sheets, second at 1:52.55, and Matt Purcell from Northgate (1:53.47) in third each bested the previous record of 1:53.92.

The quartet of Sheets, Zach Sutterlin, Retsch and Dan Bratu broke the record Hampton set last year (1:37.01). Sheets and Retsch returned from that team. Retsch also won gold with a time of 50.15 in the 100 butterfly.

“The guys are looking really good. They’re a tight group’” coach Morgan Zweygardt said. “After last year, they were really excited and wanted to come back and do it again.”

The Riverside boys had a great first day at Pitt, ranking third with 97 points.

Sophomore Joe Roth won gold in the 50 freestyle with a time of 21.28. The boys set a WPIAL record in the 200 freestyle relay (1:26.37), and senior Alex Roth won bronze in the 200 freestyle.

The Roth brothers attend Ellwood City and both star at basketball, but swimming may be a part of their future.

“(Alex’s) legs gave out on him at the end, but he’ll be all right. He knows what he needs to do,” said Riverside coach Gwen Nulph. “He’s going to go to college to swim, but he hasn’t decided where yet.”

When asked about Alex’s little brother Joe, Nulph quipped “I don’t know if you can call him his little brother.” Joe is 6-foot-6 and plans to swim at the higher levels in the future.

For the 2A girls, Mt. Pleasant leads with 187 points, Quaker Valley is second at 136, and Blackhawk sits in third with 132.

The Vikings opened by winning the 200 medley relay (1:49.46) and closed by winning the 200 free relay by setting a WPIAL record with a time of 1:37.53.

Freshman Lily King, who was part of the 200 free relay team, won gold in the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.74.

Sophomore Elise Nardozzi from Northgate, last year’s 2A girls champions, swam a great race to defeat the favorite Maeve Kelly from Shady Side Academy, 1:49.41 to 1:53.82 in the 200 freestyle.

Junior Ella Menear from Mapletown won her second consecutive gold medal in the 200 IM with a time of 2:04.46, besting her first-place time from last year.

The Day 2 sessions for both classifications are set for Friday at Trees Pool with 3A starting in the morning and 2A completing the championships in the afternoon.

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