Shady Side Academy girls 400 free relay captures PIAA championship
By: Michael Love
Sunday, March 18, 2018 | 12:09 AM
The Shady Side Academy girls 400-yard freestyle relay came into Saturday evening's PIAA Class AA championship heat at Bucknell as the fourth seed.
But the quartet of seniors Meredith Cummings, Sasha Arefyev, Heather Grune and Lindsey Grune was confident it could rise to the top.
When anchor Lindsey Grune touched the wall at 3 minutes, 34.05 seconds, the good vibes became golden with a state championship.
“We've been together all four years and have gotten really close,” Arefyev said. “The fact that we all got this opportunity to swim this together, we wanted to chase after it as much as we could. We had a good setup going into the finals. As soon as Meredith dove in, we were ready to rip it apart.”
Cummings started things off and gave way to Arefyev. Heather Grune was the third leg, with sister Lindsey the anchor.
“I always want to go under 53 as a flat start, and when I looked up and saw a 52.9, I said, ‘OK, we're in business,' ” Cummings said.
Lindsey Grune, who joined the other three on the relay after the WPIAL title win earlier this month, said she was impressed seeing her teammates' swims Saturday night.
“Each time someone touched the wall, I got a little bit more excited,” she said.
The relay helped Shady Side Academy place fifth in the Class AA girls standings with 111 points.
It joined Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic diver Kyle Maziarz as a PIAA Class AA champion from the WPIAL from the two days at Bucknell.
Northgate junior Karen Siddoway added a second-place in the girls 100 free Saturday with a time of 50.88.
“I felt great, and I was really happy with my time. I felt really fast in the water,” said Siddoway, who also placed second in the 200 free.
“I was pumped when I looked up at the board and saw I got a personal best.”
Belle Vernon freshman Ian Shahan produced his second runner-up finish in as many days when he recorded a time of 50.55 in the boys 100 backstroke.
“It feels amazing to come here as a freshman and do as good as I did,” Shahan said.
Leopards teammate Robert Spekis, a junior, took third overall in the 100 breaststroke (58.31).
“I worked really hard this year to get my times down, and it really paid off,” said Spekis, 12th in the 100 breast as a freshman and 30th last year.
Belle Vernon led the WPIAL in the Class AA boys team standings with a fifth-place finish. WPIAL champ Northgate took seventh.
WPIAL girls AA diving champion Anna Vogt arrived at Saturday's PIAA championships seeded 13th.
The Ringgold junior said she didn't focus on her pre-meet ranking. Her actual performance was what she was concerned about.
“My coaches said I will place well if I just concentrate on my dives and not worry about anyone else,” said Vogt, who finished 10th in her first trip to states last year.
“I didn't know where anyone was in the standings.”
Vogt's game plan and dive execution paid dividends as she improved on 2017 with a third-place finish.
Her 372.95 points were less than seven from runner-up Trinity Thomas, a senior from West York.
Big Springs senior Shannon McCabe, last year's second-place finisher, took the title with 396.95 points.