WPIAL swimmers claim 6 more titles at PIAA Class 2A championships

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Saturday, March 19, 2022 | 11:51 PM


LEWISBURG — WPIAL swimmers continued to roll Saturday evening on the second day of the PIAA Class 2A championships at Bucknell.

They brought home six more state titles, boosting the final tally for the two days to 13.

WPIAL swimmers claimed the boys 100-yard freestyle, the 500 free, the 100 backstroke, and 400 free relay, plus the girls 100 free and 400 free relay.

Boys

Indiana freshman Preston Kessler doubled his pleasure, following up his 200 free title he won Friday with another championship Saturday.

As the top seed, he captured gold in the 100 free with a time of 44.96.

“Right after warm-ups this morning, I walked down to where my coaches were. I looked down, and there was a penny, face up,” Kessler said.

“Right there, I thought, ‘That’s good luck, and I am going to do good things today.’ I was determined to come back and do the same thing I did yesterday (in the 200 free).”

Kessler admitted that he came in to his swims both days a little nervous.

“I came in here yesterday so nervous. Today, I came in just as nervous. But my team and my parents were there to calm me down and tell me everything was going to be good. I am so grateful to have that.”

On the strength of his two state championships, Kessler was presented the plaque designating him the Swimmer of the Meet.

Riverside sophomore Joe Roth had enough motivation from last year’s runner-up finish in the boys 100 backstroke (50.36) to fill an Olympic sized pool as he went after the title in the event Saturday.

Add that to his near miss in the 50 free from Friday where he finished second overall by just one one-hundredth of a second.

Roth was ready to bring home individual gold.

Mission accomplished, as Roth raced to a state-record time of 48.44.

“I came in here pretty determined after the loss in the 50,” Roth said.

“I knew after my prelim swim earlier in the day that I was ready to win this. It was a long day yesterday, and I wasn’t feeling my best. But today, it was a little better, and I felt I could swim well.”

Roth then joined older brother, senior Alex Roth, as well as junior Sam Kline and sophomore Ryan Turner on the gold-medal winning Panthers 400 free relay.

The quartet outdistanced the field with a winning time of 3:09.95.

“Obviously, you don’t want it to end,” Alex Roth said concerning the 400 free relay being his final high school race.

“All good things do come to an end, but I will take with me some great memories swimming and racing with some great guys, the ones on the relay and everyone on the team. I love them like brothers. It’s tough to say goodbye, but winning gold to end it feels pretty good.”

Northgate junior Matt Purcell watched sophomore teammate Elise Nardozzi win a state title Friday in the 200 free.

It was his turn Saturday.

Purcell, seeded second overall in the 500 free heading to states, raced to a winning championship-finals time of 4:35.14.

“I thought to myself, ‘Well, I have to do it, too.’ We both had WPIAL championships a couple weeks ago, and I wanted us to continue it at state,” said Purcell, who finished fourth in the 200 IM on Friday.

Purcell said he felt added endurance from a workout regimen helped convince him to make the switch from swimming the 100 back at states as a freshman and sophomore.

“I got some really great aerobic training this year,” he said. “Last year at this time, I was 4:51, and now I am 4:35. It’s definitely been a big drop. I trained really hard, and I wanted to see it pay off here today.”

Fueled by the two relay state titles and Jo Roth’s win in the 100 back and second in the 200 free, Riverside finished second in the team standings with 148 points.

Cathedral Prep from District 10 won the state title with 196 points.

The WPIAL was well-represented in the top 10 as North Catholic finished third (122 points), and Northgate was fifth (107). Hampton and Mt. Pleasant tied for sixth with 97 points, and Indiana was ninth with 71 points.

Girls

Mt. Pleasant freshman Lily King brought home her second individual state title Saturday as she swam to a win in the 100 free. Her time of 49.78 was just 21 one-hundredths of a second off the PIAA record (49.57) set in 2013.

King bested runner-up Elise Nardozzi, a sophomore from Northgate, who finished in a time of 50.43. Nardozzi also was gunning for her second individual state title after winning the 200 free on Friday.

“The title and the state record were on my mind, but I was just mainly focusing on getting the best time that I could, doing what I needed to do,” King said.

“Elise is an amazing swimmer. Her 200 yesterday was absolutely incredible. It was just awesome to have someone like that to compete against, knowing that either one of us would be happy for the other, no matter what the outcome turned out to be.”

King then joined teammates Reegan Brown, Trinity Graft and SaraJo Gardner on the triumphant 400 free relay.

The 400 free relay capped the meet with a winning time of 3 minutes, 30.64 seconds, better than its WPIAL-record of 3:32.12. It was seven one-hundredths of a second behind Schuylkill Valley heading into King’s final leg.

King hit the water, and her 48.55 split brought it home.

“We were pretty confident coming into the (championship) race,” said Brown, who swam the leadoff leg.

“There was a mix of anxiousness and excitement for me. I watched my teammates swim, and I wanted us to get this win so much. I was done, and I hoped I did what I needed to do for the team. I had so much trust in them that they could finish it off.”

Paced by two state championships from King and a third from the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Vikings placed second overall in the team standings with 169 points.

Schuylkill Valley won the title with 177 points.

It was enough to make coach Sandy DeFelice well up with emotion talking about it when it was all said and done.

“These girls worked so hard all season,” she said.

“They support each other, and we had other team members here cheering for them, which has been a big plus all season. We all had confidence that they could do something like this.”

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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