Northgate wins 2nd WPIAL girls swimming championship in 3 years

Saturday, March 6, 2021 | 3:49 PM

Sparked by two second-place finishes in three relay races at Upper St. Clair High School, Northgate captured its second WPIAL Class 2A girls swimming championship in the past three years.

The Flames, who won with a score of 254 points, were also team champions in 2019. Elizabeth Forward was crowned champion last year.

“This was a total team effort,” Northgate coach Jess McKelvey said. “They couldn’t have done it without that togetherness. We had a little bit of a hiccup, a week off with a covid quarantine, but despite all of that, they brought it home. They made it happen, and they rallied around each other. They are such team players. I am so happy for them.”

Elise Nardozzi, Danica Raich, Kendall McKelvey and Anna Neiss placed second in the 200-yard freestyle relay and Catrina Raich joined Neiss, McKelvey and Nardozzi to earn silver in the 400 free relay. Quaker Valley, which finished second in the team standings with 199 points, took the gold in the 400 free and in the 200 medley relays.

Nardozzi also garnered silver medals in the 200 free (1:55.28) and 100 free (52.19). Northgate won 11 medals in the competition.

The Quakers, led by Isabel Huang, were satisfied with their team performance although Huang was unable to defend her gold medals from last year in two individual events.

“We’re very excited to be here,” first-year Quaker Valley coach John Nemeth said. “We broke the school record in the 200 medley, and we think Isabella (Huang) has a good chance to get to the PIAA championships.”

With covid protocols in place, a change this year is that only WPIAL champions get an automatic berth to the state meet. The rest of the field will be determined by at-large bids from throughout the state based on time.

Huang, who won the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke last year, was unseated in both of those events by Mapletown’s Ella Menear. Menear is an independent swimmer as the Maples do not have a swim team. The sophomore won the 200 IM (2:04:54) and the 100 back (54:58).

South Park’s Katie Jackovic also had an impressive individual showing. The freshman took home two gold medals, winning the 50 free (23.80) and 100 free (51:57). Both times were personal bests for Jackovic.

Shady Side Academy’s Maeve Kelly also was one of the favorites this year after transferring from Winchester Thurston. The sophomore, who won gold in the 200 and 500 freestyle races last year, repeated in both, finishing in 1:53.28 in the 200 and 5:00.53 in the 500.

“This feels a little better because I know I can have that quarantine time off (last summer and December) and come back and be better than I was last year,” Kelly said of her performance.

“I was a little disappointed (in the 500 time) because I had gone (sub-5:00) in a dual meet and I felt I could’ve gone faster because it’s WPIALs. But it is different than last year, and I think it will fire me up more for states.”

North Catholic senior Brittney Carmazzi (100 fly) and Freeport’s Alexis Schrecongost (100 breast) also won individual events.

Buoyed by a first-place finish in the 200 free relay, Mt. Pleasant (179.5 points) finished in third place in the team standings, followed by Elizabeth Forward (175) and Laurel Highlands (162).

Event winners advance to the PIAA meet, set for March 19 at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.

The WPIAL Class 3A championship meet will be held Sunday, at Upper St. Clair.

Watch an archived broadcast of the WPIAL Class AA championship meet on the TribLive High School Sports Network.

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