North Allegheny swimming, diving teams off to fast start as they look to defend titles

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Thursday, December 26, 2019 | 5:31 PM


The North Allegheny swimming and diving teams are favored to repeat as WPIAL Class AAA champions and, for the first time, could earn PIAA titles in the same season.

Both are 3-0 going into the New Year’s Meet Challenge on Jan. 4 at Bucknell, where they will face squads from across the state.

Senior Rick Mihm, a Stanford recruit and three-time PIAA and four-time WPIAL champion in the 200-yard individual medley and 500 freestyle, was impressed by the boys.

“We had some fast races during our midseason meets in December, which has motivated us going into these next two months of hard training,” he said.

According to the teams’ site, the Tigers were dominant against Upper St. Clair — the WPIAL runner-up last season — at home.

Winning individually were Mihm, seniors Josh Galecki, Alex Grahor, Branko Kosanovich and Ethan Song and freshman diver Will Schenk.

Galecki (200 freestyle and 100 freestyle) and Mihm (200 individual medley and 500 freestyle) were double winners. Mihm set a pool record in the 200 individual medley.

Juniors Jacob McCarran and Matt Turzai were among swimmers in relays that won.

Earlier, the Tigers crushed North Catholic and Mt. Lebanon. Against Mt. Lebanon, Mihm broke a pool record in the 100 butterfly.

Among contributors were senior Richard Jensen, junior Tim Compton, freshman Zachary Jubeck, sophomore Stewart Messer, sophomore Jacob Yarosz, freshman David Shi, senior Audric Pastor, senior R.J. Swanson, sophomore Hayden Klein and junior divers Liam Cross and Lucas Rodgers.

The Tigers kick off Section 2-AAA action Jan. 7 against Hampton at home.

They have been WPIAL champions the past eight seasons and PIAA champions the past three.

Kosanovich, a Penn State recruit, said the Tigers are ready to compete with anyone.

“We lost a lot of talent and leadership, but have guys coming back and ready to step up,” he said. “This team believes in each other and (knows) what it takes to win.

“We have two big dual meets behind us (Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon). Now, it’s time to grind to WPIAL (championship) in February and the pinnacle at states in March.”

The girls (3-0) are seeking their 12th consecutive WPIAL title and first PIAA crown since 1997.

Against Mt. Lebanon, the WPIAL runner-up last season, the 200 medley relay team of senior Torie Buerger, junior Olivia Kisow, sophomore Ella Ogden and freshman Lexi Sundgren set a pool record to win.

Junior Molly Smyers (200 freestyle and 100 butterfly), Ogden (50 and 100 freestyle) and Buerger (200 individual medley and 100 backstroke) were double winners. Also winning individually were Kisow and junior diver Maya Ennis.

Senior Olivia Kraus was in a winning relay.

Against Upper St. Clair, Ogden broke pool records in the 100 butterfly and in the 400 freestyle relay with Smyers, Sundgren and Buerger.

In the North Catholic meet, freshmen Mikayla Tieppo, Delaney Kennedy, Vivien Li and Sophia Huwar won individually in their high school debuts. Kennedy (50 and 100 free) took first place in two events.

Junior Quinn Frost, junior Katie Oates, senior Michaela Hinkson, sophomore Isabella Dietz, junior Lily Courville and sophomore Kara Mihm were among contributors.

Ennis said Tiger diving is the strongest it has been in a long time. Competitors include sophomore Eva Betz and freshmen Christina Shi, Zoe Ky and Maddie Whitewolf.

“I would love to improve on my performance and make states again,” Ennis said. “It would be fun to be able to experience that meet with other North Allegheny divers.”

Buerger, a Kentucky recruit and three-time WPIAL champion in the 100 backstroke, said the Tigers’ ultimate goal is the PIAA championship. They placed eighth in the state last season.

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