Trio of WPIAL standouts claim gold on Day 1 of PIAA Class AA swimming and diving championships

Thursday, March 14, 2019 | 12:05 AM

LEWISBURG — Northgate-Avonworth’s Karen Siddoway trailed Northern York senior Kate Luft for most of the girls Class AA 200-yard freestyle final Wednesday evening at Bucknell University.

But Siddoway, a senior, made her move over the final 50 and passed Luft right before the wall to secure her first state championship.

“On the last 50, I just went for it,” Siddoway said. “I was like, ‘let’s just see what happens.’ I had to swim my own race and pace it the way I had done it in practice, and it worked. When I touched, I wasn’t sure if I had made it or not. I saw it was going to be close. When I saw my time, I was so happy I went under 1:50. Then I saw I got first, and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’”

Siddoway, the runner-up in the 200 free last year, finished with a time of 1 minute, 49.08 seconds, a personal best and more than three seconds faster than her seed time (1:52.66).

Luft finished second by only seven one-hundredths of a second (1:49.15).

Siddoway opens Thursday with the preliminaries in the 100 free. She won the WPIAL title with a time of 50.88 and is the top seed.

“If I can go 1:49 in the 200 free, I feel like I can go 49, hopefully, in the 100 free,” she said. “That would be really cool.”

Siddoway wasn’t the only one from the WPIAL to win a state title Wednesday.

Ringgold senior Anna Vogt finished third at last year’s PIAA diving championships, and she hoped to maintain her standing after the state champion and runner-up moved on because of graduation.

The two-time WPIAL champion and Clarion recruit did just that as she held off the rest of the 24-diver field Wednesday afternoon to claim the state title.

Vogt, the top seed, led from beginning to end, finishing the 11-dive competition with 421.10 points, 38.75 ahead of runner-up Erica Kenski, a senior from Trinity in District 3.

She is the first WPIAL diver to win a Class AA girls state title since Mars’ Taylor Hockenberry captured back-to-back gold medals in 2015 and ‘16.

She also is the sixth WPIAL diver to claim the state crown in Class AA since PIAA swimming split into two classifications in 1993. She joins Freeport’s Beth Clark (1993-96), Shady Side Academy’s Brittany Garza (1997-99), Riverside’s Kayla Kelosky (2007), Mohawk’s McKenzie Stelter (2013) and Hockenberry.

“It’s definitely cool, especially after Taylor was so good and being able to follow in her footsteps,” Vogt said.

Belle Vernon sophomore Ian Shahan brought home the WPIAL’s third state title of Day 1 with a career-best time of 48.83 in the 100 butterfly.

“Deep down, I felt I had a best race in me,” he said. “I was a little nervous. I always am when it comes to these big meets. I want to do whatever I can to see how fast I can go.”

Shahan, the WPIAL champion in the 100 fly, was seeded fourth for the finals after recording a 50.15 in the preliminaries.

“I knew when I came to the wall I had a really bad finish,” he said. “I had short-stroked my wall. But when I looked up, it was exciting to see my time and see first place.”

Shahan was focused on bringing home the crown after finishing runner-up last year. Holy Redeemer senior Adam Mahler, last year’s state champion, placed third (49.03).

“I just want to swim my best race and improve my times, but there also is a little of ‘(Mahler) beat me last year. Let’s see if I can beat him this year.’”

Shahan swam three times in the preliminaries and three more in the finals, and he was grateful for a little rest before his 100 freestyle prelim Thursday. He is seeded first with a time of 45.48 recorded in winning the event at WPIALs.

Neshannock sophomore Conner McBeth and Mt. Pleasant junior Heather Gardner each added runner-up finishes.

McBeth recorded a personal best of 21.26 in the 50 free. He was just four one-hundredths of a second away from the state-winning time turned in by Huntingdon junior Nick Buckley.

“I was disappointed because I wanted the win, but I also can’t be too upset because it was my best time,” said McBeth, ninth in the 50 free as a freshman.

McBeth swims the 100 free Thursday, and he is seeded second (45.80) behind Shahan.

“It was really close at WPIALs, so it will be interesting to see how this race goes,” he said.

Gardner was seeded second for the finals in the girls 50 free, and the Mt. Pleasant junior swam a time of 23.43 to better her seed time by 30 one-hundredths of a second.

But Grove City senior Emma Wilson went just a little faster and edged Gardner for the state crown with a time of 23.14. It was the second straight PIAA title for Wilson, who also beat out Gardner for the gold last year.

Gardner will return Thursday in the 100 breaststroke, and the WPIAL champion in the event is the No. 2 seed (1:03.92).

“I am looking forward to trying to beat my (seed) time, going out strong in the prelims and coming back with a good time for the finals,” she said. “I only have one person (seeded) ahead of me, so I hope I can (win the title).”

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

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