North Allegheny swim team revels in PIAA 3-peat

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Thursday, March 21, 2019 | 10:59 PM


The North Allegheny boys swimming team got the three-peat at the PIAA Class AAA championship meet March 15-16 at Bucknell with some new faces.

“The path to a state title is always different,” senior and Pitt recruit Jerry Chen said. “We lost some big point scorers and relay members, but we had lots of people step up to fill those spots.”

Senior Jack Wright (1 minute, 35.04 seconds) and junior Rick Mihm (4:23.48) led the Tigers with victories in the 200-yard freestyle and 500 freestyle. Both were defending champions.

Wright (43.81) and Mihm (1:44.97) were second in the 100 freestyle and 200 individual medley.

Wright, a Virginia recruit, anchored the 200 freestyle relay (1:22.48) and 400 freestyle relay (2:59.80) teams that won. Joining him in the 200 freestyle relay were junior Branko Kosanovich, senior Joel Songer and junior Joshua Galecki and in the 400 freestyle relay, Mihm, Kosanovich and senior John Ehling.

The 200 freestyle relay team was defending champion.

“It was a lot of fun to swim the free relays with different teammates in prelims and finals and come out on top,” Wright said. “It feels great to finish off my senior year with a big team win.”

The 200 medley relay team of Mihm, Chen, senior Anatole Borisov and Songer placed second (1:30.70).

Also earning medals were Ehling, third, 500 freestyle (4:30.16), Kosanovich, fifth, 100 butterfly (48.71), Chen, fifth, 100 breaststroke (56.54), and sophomore Jacob McCarran, seventh, 100 breaststroke (57.41).

Placing in the top 16 as consolation finalists were Galecki (200 and 500 freestyle), Chen (200 individual medley), Ehling (200 individual medley), Songer (50 freestyle), Borisov (100 butterfly) and Kosanovich (100 freestyle).

The meet was closer than last season, which made the victory even sweeter, Wright said. The Tigers scored 279 points, 83 more than second-place North Penn of District 1.

“A three-peat is very difficult as the target on our backs just keeps getting bigger,” North Allegheny coach Patrick Wenzel said.

Mihm and Kosanovich look forward to next season.

“We’re a gritty team,” said Kosanovich, who moved from a Chicago suburb with his family last August. “I’m going to celebrate this championship, take a break and catch up on some school work but eventually refocus and get ready to compete for next year.”

Mihm said the Tigers, who earned their eighth straight WPIAL title this season, try not to be completely satisfied.

“(We will) pick out things in our swims that can be better,” he said. “For me, this states was a great experience.

“I have a lot to think about how I can be a better swimmer going into next year.”

On the girls side, the Tigers climbed to eighth after coming in ninth last season.

Junior Torie Buerger tied for second in the 200 individual medley (2:00.96) and placed fourth in the 100 backstroke (54.70) as the team’s only individual medalist.

The 400 freestyle relay team of Buerger, sophomore Olivia Kisow, senior Lila McGrath and sophomore Molly Smyers (3:30.07) and the 200 freestyle relay team of Buerger, Kisow, senior Mary Flavin and Smyers (1:35.88) reached the podium after placing fifth and seventh.

Smyers (200 and 500 freestyle) and Kisow (200 freestyle) were consolation finalists.

Sophomore Maya Ennis made the 1-meter diving finals, placing 13th (373.30 points).

“My teammates and I are already looking forward to next year,” Buerger said. “We have many good swimmers returning, and we will have some ninth grade swimmers join us (who) could make a big contribution.”

The girls team earned its 11th consecutive WPIAL title this season.

“I’m proud of the way these girls became a team,” Wenzel said. “The best part of this season was the real camaraderie between the boys and girls.

“They really supported and challenged one another and celebrated each other’s accomplishments.”

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