Seneca Valley boys capture Class 3A team title at PIAA swimming and diving championships

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Thursday, March 17, 2022 | 11:32 PM


LEWISBURG — The PIAA Class 3A boys swimming and diving team title is back with the WPIAL.

Seneca Valley captured its first team championship Thursday at Bucknell, and it also ended the two-year reign of District 12’s LaSalle College.

The Raiders clinched the title in the final event — the 400-yard free relay — as the quartet of Kevin Donaldson, Gavin Blazer, Zach Lozowski and Daniel Simoes raced to a winning time of 3 minutes, 5.37 seconds, edging both North Penn (3:05.53) and LaSalle College (3:05.95).

“I had the utmost trust in my teammates to give me a lead, and as soon as I dove in, I knew I could bring it home,” said Simoes, the relay’s anchor. “To do that for the team is such a great feeling.

“Everybody came in here and showed out both days. The relays did what we had to do, and all of the individual swims and the diving, too. Every place finish, every point mattered. It truly was a team effort.”

The relay victory, coupled with Simoes’ PIAA title in the 200 individual medley from Wednesday, as well as several top-eight medal-winning performances, put the Raiders over the top with 188 points.

LaSalle College, which finished third in the 400 free relay, ended as the runner-up with 174 points.

“LaSalle brings such a competitive team to states every year,” Seneca Valley coach Brian Blackwell said as he tried to hold back waves of emotion in the moments following the conclusion of the meet.

“We knew they were going to be a very tough opponent. We just believed in our training, our hard work, and our preparation. We had so many great performances both days. We gave ourselves a chance to win it at the end. This feels so great. I am so happy for the guys.”

Seneca Valley kicked off Thursday’s portion of the meet with a pair of medals in the 100 free as Simoes dropped time from his preliminary swim and placed third overall (45.18) while Kevin Donaldson landed in sixth place with a time of 45.75.

Right before the 400 free relay, junior Haihan Xu scored points for the Raiders as he finished fourth in a time of 56.27.

Upper St. Clair senior Ganesh Sivaramakrishnan finished second in the 100 backstroke by just four one-hundredths of a second to state champion Patrick Gilhool, a senior from Liberty.

Gilhool touched the wall at 47.57, while Sivaramakrishnan followed at 47.61.

“At first, when I touched the wall, I looked at my team and then I looked at the board and saw second place,” Sivaramakrishnan said.

“I was pretty upset that (Gilhool) out-touched me by four one-hundredths of a second. But it is what it is.

“I had a terrible second turn, and it is something that I am going to have to learn from. I had a perfect race, except for that one part.”

Sivaramakrishnan, who also earned an individual silver medal Wednesday in the 100 butterfly, took close to a second off his WPIAL-winning 100 back time of 48.51.

“Overall, I was pretty happy with (the 100 back),” he said. “Moving forward, I know what I have to do, what changes I have to make to be able to go even faster.”

Bethel Park senior Dom Cortopassi joined Sivaramakrishnan on the 100 back medals stand with a fourth-place finish in a time of 50.06.

On the girls side, North Allegheny junior Lexi Sundgren, the WPIAL champion in the 500 free, earned a silver medal in the event Thursday evening. She touched the wall in second place with a time of 4:51.80.

Haverford junior Katya Eruslanova won the 500 in 4:48.98.

Sundgren added the silver medal to the fourth-place finish she recorded in the 200 free Wednesday.

North Allegheny sophomore Natalie Sens, the WPIAL champion in the Class 3A 100 breast, found herself seeded eighth heading into the finals in prime time Thursday.

She made the most of her opportunity coming back as she moved up to second overall in a time of 1:03.16.

The pair of runner-up finishes contributed 34 points to North Allegheny’s team total of 148, and it was good enough for third overall behind Hatboro Horsham (227) and Conestoga (164).

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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