Record-setting WCCA swimming meet for Belle Vernon’s Shahan, Mt. Pleasant’s Gardner

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Saturday, January 25, 2020 | 8:47 PM


Heading into the Westmoreland County Coaches Association swimming and diving championships, Belle Vernon junior Ian Shahan and Mt. Pleasant senior Heather Gardner had their sights on reaching the record books.

The pair certainly left their mark, combining to break three meet records and nearly broke a fourth Saturday at Derry.

Shahan, the reigning WPIAL and PIAA Class AA champion in the 100-yard butterfly and 100 freestyle, smashed the butterfly record set in 2017 by Derry’s Zach Baum (51.62) by more than a second with a time of 50.37. Shahan was almost three seconds ahead of Franklin Regional senior Elias Holm (53.30).

The 100 butterfly record was Shahan’s second of the meet. In the 50 freestyle, Shahan touched with a time of 20.95, just .06 seconds ahead of Norwin senior Ethan Tulenko (21.01). Shahan broke the mark of 21.29 set last year by Gavin Mayo of Hempfield.

“I think I did everything right,” Shahan said. “There are definitely the little things that I need to work on. My start wasn’t good in my 50, and it almost cost me the race. My starts and my underwaters really need to be worked on.”

Shahan anchored the Leopards’ 400 freestyle relay team that finished third (3:24.20) behind Franklin Regional (3:16.58) and Penn-Trafford (3:16.66). Shahan also anchored the 200 freestyle relay (1:32.98), which was won by Franklin Regional in (1:28.98). Penn-Trafford, Norwin and Hempfield finished ahead of Belle Vernon.

The Belle Vernon boys captured its third-straight Class AA title, finishing with 183 points, 44 points more than runner-up Mt. Pleasant (139).

“At the end of the day, I did well and the team did as well,” Shahan said. “We held strong for the third year in a row. Hopefully, we can carry that into next year as well.”

Gardner, a Liberty recruit, broke a record that stood for a decade when she finished the 100 freestyle in 51.84. Gardner was almost two seconds faster than runner-up Hempfield junior Maddy Cisco (53.93). Latrobe’s Madeleine Hoopes held the previous record (52.52).

“It was a great meet. I didn’t think I would go out that fast this early in the season,” Gardner said.

“I really wanted the school record, and if I got that record, I knew I would get the meet record. I kind of shocked myself with that one. I knew what I needed to do, but I wasn’t thinking I could do it. When I swam both of my 50s for my 100 free, I was super happy when I saw the time come up.”

In her last event, Gardner finished .31 seconds shy of breaking the 100 breaststroke record she set last year. Gardner won the event in 1:04.61, which was close to four seconds faster than Franklin Regional senior Evelyn Siler (1:08.50).

Gardner was part of Mt. Pleasant’s 200 medley relay team that nearly set a record after finishing in 1:50.71 in the opening event of the day. Franklin Regional (1:53.08) and Hempfield (1:53.63) finished second and third.

Mt. Pleasant finished second in the 200 freestyle relay (1:41.29) with Gardner as anchor. Hempfield won in 1:39.91.

With Gardner’s performance, the Mt. Pleasant girls team captured their second Class AA title in a row with 254 points. Greensburg Salem and Derry tied for second with 105 points.

Tulenko set the record in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:41.81. He broke Zack Rulli’s 2017 record (1:44.28).

Penn-Trafford junior Austin Prokopec broke a six-year old mark in the 500 freestyle, as he edged the competition in 4:49.22. Nick Whiteman of Franklin Regional set the previous record (4:51.27) in 2014.

The Hempfield girls defeated Franklin Regional for the Class AAA title, as the Spartans finished with 355 points to the Panthers’ 330.

Hempfield senior Francesca Nemetz won the 100 butterfly and was part of the two winning relays: 200 and 400 freestyle. Nemetz finished third in the 500 free.

Nemetz’ teammate, sophomore Emma Martz, won the 50 free and was part of the two relays with Nemetz. Martz finished fifth in the 100 free.

On the boys side, Franklin Regional blew away the competition with 393.50 points. Penn-Trafford finished with 264 points.

Aside from winning the 200 and 400 free relays, the Panthers benefited from a first- and second-place finish by senior Marshall Mao and freshman Aiden Bunker in the 100 breaststroke.

“I was really pleased with their performances today. We have a nice group of seniors on this team, and it’s great to see it all come together,” Franklin Regional coach Vic Santoro said. “We got a lot of good performances, but it’s time to knuckle down and get ready for WPIALs.”

Norwin’s Phong Tran won the 200 IM, finished tied for second in the 100 breaststroke with Bunker and was part of the winning 200 medley relay.

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