WPIAL claims 4 state titles on final day of PIAA AA swimming championships

Friday, March 15, 2019 | 7:37 AM

LEWISBURG – The WPIAL produced four more state champions Thursday at the PIAA Class AA swim meet at Bucknell University.

Robert Spekis, a senior from Belle Vernon in his final high school race, brought home gold in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 56.63.

“It was such a great feeling to come back for the finals and cut time,” said Spekis, who had recorded a 57.98 in the preliminaries.

“Coming here every year and racing these guys is my favorite thing. We’ve grown together throughout these years.”

The field for the championship heat in the 100 breast featured four seniors, three juniors and a freshman.

Spekis captured the state crown after placing third in the 100 breast as a junior and 14th as a sophomore.

He dropped down almost two seconds from last year’s time of 58.31.

“I rested up after the prelims, came back, and gave it my all,” Spekis said.

Thursday’s swimming championship session began with Belle Vernon sophomore Ian Shahan taking home his second state title in as many days.

On Wednesday, he won the 100 butterfly. He returned Thursday in the 100 freestyle, set the pace in the preliminaries and brought it home in the finals with a top time of 45.39 seconds.

“I was pretty happy with my swim,” said Shahan, who bested a field that included 2018 backstroke champion Josiah Lauver, a senior from Bishop McDevitt in District 3.

Last year, on Day 2 of the state meet, Shahan swam the 100 backstroke and earned a silver medal to Lauver’s gold. In December, Shahan switched things up and went with the 100 free. In the end, it paid dividends.

North Catholic junior Kyle Maziarz captured the WPIAL’s first state title Thursday. He repeated as the Class AA diving champion.

He edged out club teammate and WPIAL champion Andrew Cestra (Beaver) by less than three points (447.55 to 444.85).

“Andrew is my friend and one of my biggest competitors,” Maziarz said. “If I didn’t win, I would’ve been happy for him to win. He deserved it just as much. The final score was so close. Being able to battle him is an honor.”

Maziarz, the WPIAL champion last year as a sophomore and the runner-up to Cestra at this year’s WPIAL meet, improved his point total from last year state meet when he recorded 418.70 points.

“My twisters are what came in handy,” Maziarz said. “They helped push me over the top when I needed a little boost. I strategically planned the dives I knew I could nail. I didn’t want to take too many risks.”

Northgate-Avonworth senior Karen Siddoway captured her second AA state title in as many days with a personal-best 50.36 in the girls 100-yard freestyle.

“I was a little bummed I didn’t go under 50, but that is a personal best, and I’m happy about that,” Siddoway said. “Honestly, that’s a big time to drop in the 100 to go from a 50.88 to under 50 seconds. So, I’m happy with the way I swam.”

Siddoway was state runner-up in both the 100 and 200 frees last year.

“It is such an awesome feeling to be state champion,” Siddoway said. “I feel my work this year landed me in this spot. I’ve worked so hard for this.”

Siddoway bested a championship-finals field in the 100 free that included Wednesday state champions in Springfield Township sophomore Maura Fluehr (100 butterfly) and Grove City senior Emma Wilson (50 free).

Heather Gardner swam a 1:03.91 Thursday morning in the preliminaries of the 100 breast. The time was one one-hundredth of a second faster than the 1:03.92 she posted in winning the WPIAL title.

The Mt. Pleasant junior entered the finals hoping to go faster and move up the ranks. She did just that as her 1:02.77 landed her in second place behind only Gwynedd Mercy senior Annie O’Dare (1:01.80), the defending champion.

“I came into the race with a clear mind,” Gardner said. “I knew there were a lot of good girls in this heat. I knew Annie was really fast, so I just wanted to pace with her. I saw her on my turns, and I could tell where she was at. I just went after it.”

Gardner finished fourth in the 100 breast last year.

“I was so happy that I cut more than a second,” she said. “I really wanted to get down into the 1:02s. I just raced as fast as I could, and I ended the season great.”

WPIAL swimmers also produced a pair of bronze-medal finishes.

Neshannock sophomore Conner McBeth, the WPIAL runner-up to Shahan in the 100 free, swam to a third in the event Thursday with a time of 45.98, lower than his prelim of 46.40 recorded earlier in the day.

He added that finish to the silver medal won in the 50 free Wednesday.

Deer Lakes junior Adam Morrison clocked a 4:41.95 in the 500 free. The WPIAL champion in the event was right next to a pair of history making swims.

Marian Catholic senior Danny Berlitz edged Clearfield junior Luke Mikesell for the state title by 45 one-hundredths of a second, and Berlitz established a new state record with a time of 4:24.07.

Morrison also earned a sixth-place medal in the 200 freestyle.

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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