Pair of Belle Vernon boys break records at WPIAL swimming championships

Friday, March 1, 2019 | 7:14 PM

A pair of Belle Vernon boys left the WPIAL Class AA swimming championships at Pitt’s Trees Pool not only as WPIAL champions, but also as freshly minted record-holders Friday.

Sophomore Ian Shahan and senior Robert Spekis distinguished themselves among the all-time greats by tearing down noteworthy marks, albeit in different fashion.

Shahan was the first to etch his name in the record books, breaking a 10-year-old mark in the 100-yard freestyle. His time of 45.48 seconds bettered the previous standard of 45.97 set in 2009 by Blackhawk’s Mark Stepanian.

“It feels really good,” Shahan said. “It’s really exciting to see, after you come up from swimming and see ‘WPIAL RECORD’ on the board.

“I’ve been working hard for it. I knew this is what I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to break records. I wanted to go to states, and I wanted to see what I could do out there.”

Spekis topped his record from last year (57.80) in the 100 breaststoke, touching the wall at 56.99. His improvement was just enough to edge Greensburg Salem’s William Crites, who finished second at 58.24.

“It was a lot of hard work, coming back and being the defending champ and record-holder in this event,” Spekis said. “It’s a lot to live up to, but I’m so happy I did.

“To get my time under 57 (seconds) is just crazy for me to think of. I never knew how far I could push it until now, but to go this far down with my time is just insane.”

The Belle Vernon boys finished fifth overall in the Class AA team standings with a score of 158. Indiana took first with 211.5 points.

On the girls side, Mt. Pleasant’s Heather Gardner defended her title in the 100 breaststroke, swimming a blistering time of 1:03.92. The junior utilized her improvement in the turns to defeat runner-up Rachel Blackburn of Highlands by more than two seconds.

“I felt really, really fast,” Gardner said. “I was happy with my time. I could see on my turn where I was, and I could tell I was ahead so I just pushed myself even harder.

“I was kind of bad on my turns before, so that’ what me and my coaches really tackled this year. We focused on turns, getting a good push and working out of the turn as fast I can.”

Gardner helped lead Mt. Pleasant to a ninth-place finish in the team standings with 97 points. Northgate won the girls title with a score of 225, edging Indiana (220).

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