North Allegheny girls win record 14th straight WPIAL swimming championship

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Friday, March 4, 2022 | 7:56 PM


The North Allegheny girls made history Friday, winning their 14th straight team title at the WPIAL Class 3A swimming championships.

The Tigers totaled 344 points to pass the Norwin girls volleyball team, which won 13 straight titles from 1973-1985, and claim sole possession of the record for most consecutive championships in a team sport.

Fox Chapel (314) finished second in the team race.

“We started off a lot better today then we did yesterday,” North Allegheny coach Corky Semler said. “Our girls generally as a team are swimming much better. That’s what you look for. The points will take care of themselves if our girls swim according to their capabilities.”

Semler, who had previously retired in 2013, was coaxed back to coach the Tigers shortly before the season. The championship gives him 27 combined WPIAL titles leading North Allegheny.

“I feel at home on a pool deck. Even with all the anxiety and everything else, it’s fun to be here,” Semler said.

A day after capturing two golds and four total medals, North Allegheny added three more medals on Day 2.

Junior Lexi Sundgren, who won gold Thursday in the 200 free, took first place in the 500 freestyle with dominating time of 4:51.89, almost 10 seconds better than second place.

Tigers teammate Natalie Sens won the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:04.95. The sophomore won a bronze medal in the 200 IM on Thursday.

Sundgren then helped the relay team with Greta Mott, Isabella Dietz, and Delaney Kennedy place second behind Fox Chapel in the 400 free relay with a time of 3:30.14.

The Foxes girls team, which had a fantastic first day, saw its only win in the 400-free relay. Junior Sophie Shao, who won two gold medals Thursday, led of the team with Araina Pasquella, Payton O’Toole and Rei Sperry. Sperry, a senior, won a silver medal in the 100 yard free.

Shao set a WPIAL record on Day 1 in the 100 fly while Sperry took silver in the 50-free.

“She’s been chasing that record for a couple of years now,” Fox Chapel coach Dan Taylor said. “To go under 54 (seconds) and break that record that’s been around for so long, it’s amazing.”

Taylor was pleased with both of his teams’ performances in the championships.

“We have had some incredible swims in this meet,” he said. “It’s a tribute to our season and the hard work the kids have put in.”

The Fox Chapel boys team placed fourth with 146 points.

Individually, freshman Sylvia Roy from Mt. Lebanon won her second gold in the 100 backstroke (53.93) while sophomore Caitlyn Connors won gold in the 100 freestyle after winning silver in the 200 freestyle Thursday.

Meanwhile, after tasting disappointment by 1½ points at last year’s WPIAL meet, the Seneca Valley boys left no doubt in 2022, winning the boys team championship with 333.5 points.

Upper St. Clair finished in second place with 266 points with North Allegheny (241) in third place.

A day after winning silver in the boys 200 IM, Cornell recruit Daniel Simoes won gold (45.30) in the first event, the 100 freestyle. His teammate Kevin Donaldson (45.76) finished third.

Junior Haihan Xu, who captured gold in the 200 IM on Thursday, picked up his second gold medal in the 100 backstroke with a time of (55.12).

To cap off the championship, the Raiders relay teams, which finished third in the 200 medley and first in the 200 free on Day 1, took the day’s only relay in the final event, the 400 freestyle. Donaldson, Gavin Blazer, Zach Lozowski and Simoes posted a 3:05.26 to capture the sixth gold medal for the Raiders boys. The team championship for Seneca Valley was its first since 1975.

The Seneca Valley girls team finished fourth with 175 points.

Senior Ganesh Sivaramakrishnan capped off a great individual final tournament, as he captured his second gold medal in 48.51 in the 100 backstroke. He was also a part of the Upper St. Clair relay team that finished fourth in the 400 free relay.

On the class 2A side of the docket, after winning their first title in 22 years last season, the Hampton boys decided not to wait that long for the next one. The Talbots posted a score of 201 points to beat Riverside (165) and North Catholic (164) in the boys team standings.

After a strong first day as a team, Ben Sheets won his second silver medal, finishing second in the 100 backstroke. Sheets joined teammates Will Retsch, Dan Bratu and Michael Belch to win bronze in the 400 freestyle relay.

Freshman Preston Kessler of Indiana (44.94) took gold in the 100 freestyle, defeating Alexander Roth (46.60) of Riverside, who also won silver last year in this event. Northgate’s Matt Purcell won the endurance event, the 500-freestyle, with a time of 4:37.15.

The other “Splash Brother” from Riverside, sophomore Joe Roth, broke a WPIAL record in the 100 backstroke with a time of 50.00. Roth won gold Thursday in the 50 free.

After Southmoreland junior Henry Miller (57.04) won the 100 breaststoke, Riverside broke another record in the day’s final event, the 400 freestyle relay.

The Roths, junior Sam Kline and sophomore Turner Ryan turned in a time of 3:10.93, which beat the record time of 3:11.91 set by Indiana in 2020.

In 2A girls, the Mt. Pleasant Vikings celebrated a great two-day meet by capturing their first WPIAL team championship with a score of 296 points. That bested Blackhawk (232) and Quaker Valley (221) with last year’s champion Northgate (206) finishing fourth.

The potential breakout star of the meet for 2A girls was freshman Lily King for the Vikings. After winning a gold medal yesterday, King opened with a win (50.03) in the 100 yard freestyle. That time set a WPIAL record.

King also swam the anchor leg for Mt. Pleasant in the 400 freestyle relay with Reegan Brown, Trinity Graft and SaraJo Gardner, and the Vikings broke another WPIAL record with a time of 3:32.12. Mt. Pleasant won all three relay events during the two-day meet.

“It’s a coach’s dream to coach Lily,” said Mt. Pleasant coach Sandy Felice. “Not only is she naturally talented, but as an athlete, she is a hard worker. She does everything that she is asked.”

Shady Side Academy’s Maeve Kelly, who was upset by Northgate’s Elise Nardozzi on Thursday in the 200 free, rebounded by winning gold in the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:59.75, almost 13.5 seconds better than her closest competitor. Nardozzi, a sophomore, did win a silver medal in the 100 free.

Ella Menear from Mapletown continued her strong run. After winning her second straight gold medal in the 200 IM on Thursday, the junior set a WPIAL record (54.10) in the 100 backstroke.

Another freshman, Peyton Scott from Indiana, captured a gold medal with a time of 1:04.00 in the 100 breaststroke before Mt. Pleasant took the final girls relay.

Only the first-place finishers from the WPIAL swimming championships receive automatic berths to the state meet. The rest of the qualifiers for the PIAA championships March 16-19 at Bucknell University will be chosen by at large bids Sunday afternoon.

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