WPIAL swimmers claim 7 state titles on 1st day of PIAA Class 2A championships

Friday, March 18, 2022 | 11:52 PM

LEWISBURG — Friday was a banner day for WPIAL boys and girls swimmers at the PIAA Class 2A championships at Bucknell.

The district took home seven individual state titles — four boys and three girls — out of the 12 contested events.

Indiana freshman Preston Kessler got the party started. He made the most of his first-ever championship finals swim at states as he captured the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1 minute, 40.39 seconds.

He dropped more than a half second from his WPIAL-winning time of 1:41.08 which made him the No. 1 overall seed heading to Bucknell.

“I wasn’t shaved for WPIALs, and I didn’t taper very much,” Kessler said. “It was a whole different mindset, honestly. I was thinking after WPIALs that I might be a fourth, fifth or sixth seed at states. When I got the sheet and saw I was the top seed, I was like, ‘This is crazy.’ The past two weeks between WPIALs and states have been hard work and a lot of mental preparation. I was really hoping for a time drop, and it paid off.”

The WPIAL was far from done bringing home PIAA gold, as in the very next event, Hampton senior Will Retsch, third in the 200 individual medley at states last year, ascended to the top of the podium in a winning time of 1:50.59.

The WPIAL champion, who raced three times on Friday, came to states seeded second in the 200 IM (1:51.81).

“I felt great going into my race,” said Retsch, who also earned a silver medal in a tie for second in the 100 butterfly with Boiling Spring’s Braelen Mowe (50.38).

“It was a fast heat, and I faced some good competition. They pushed me, and it was a lot of fun.”

Southmoreland junior Henry Miller added to the boys haul from the WPIAL as he captured the state title in the 100 fly. He came to states seeded sixth after finishing as the runner-up at WPIALs in a time of 51.04.

In his finals race Friday, he finished with a time of 49.83.

“With a positive outlook, I am looking to win always,” said Miller, who is the second seed for the 100 breaststroke on Saturday.

“Coming in as the sixth seed, to drop 1.5 seconds in the prelims and win it now, I couldn’t be any more happy with this day. I felt good the whole way. My race was solid. It’s been such a great time so far.”

The Riverside 200 free relay of Jo Roth, Ryan Turner, Sam Kline and Alex Roth scored the WPIAL’s fourth boys state title with a winning time of 1:25.86.

The team came in seeded first after clocking a time of 1:26.37 at WPIALs.

Jo Roth led off the relay after a heartbreaker in the 50 free in which he finished second (20.91) by the smallest of margins: one one-hundredth of a second.

“My teammates came up to me and told me to keep my head up, knowing we had a great shot to win the relay,” Jo Roth said.

“We all executed well. When I was done, I didn’t even have a second lead, but I know if we got the lead, everyone else would do what they needed to do to keep it.”

Class 2A girls

Mt. Pleasant freshman Lily King familiarized herself with the top of a swimming medals podium at the WPIAL championships earlier this month.

She was there four times in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles and also as part of the Vikings’ 200 free and 400 free relays.

King found herself there again Friday as she swam to a state championship in the 50 free with a state-record time of 22.66 seconds. The No. 1 overall seed bettered her WPIAL-winning time of 22.74.

The previous state record, 22.91, was set in 2013 by Villa Maria Academy’s Sarah Hutchens.

“It’s anyone’s race, especially one as fast as the 50 free,” King said. “I was so happy with the results I saw when I looked up to the board. All the other girls in that heat were just amazing. I am happy for my results, and happy for them as well.”

Northgate sophomore Elise Nardozzi picked up the first girls state title of the day as she raced past the competition in the 200 free, winning in a time of 1:49.09.

The WPIAL champion (1:49.41) came in seeded first overall as she set her sights on improving upon last year’s sixth-place finish in the event.

“I am so excited to have this (PIAA) medal,” said Nardozzi, who will swim Saturday as the No. 2 seed in the 100 free.

“I’ve been training really hard since WPIALs. It was really great to see all of that hard work pay off in the pool. There was a lot of motivation coming back from last year, and I was chipping away at my time all year.”

Mapletown junior Ella Menear knew what it was like to hold a PIAA medal in her hand as she captured last year’s 100 backstroke title at Cumberland Valley High School.

She wasn’t satisfied with one gold medal. She wanted another.

That’s just what she got.

Menear dropped time in the 200 IM, finishing first (2:00.50) by a half second over runner-up Kimberly Shannon, a sophomore from Lewisburg.

Shannon won the 200 IM last year as a freshman. Menear was third.

“I am probably even more excited than last year,” said Menear, who hopes to defend her 100 back title Saturday.

“Coming in as the No. 1 seed, there can be a lot of pressure. But I knew who I was up against this year. Kimberly Shannon is an amazing swimmer. Last year, she kind of beat me in the breaststroke, so I knew in the fly and backstroke, I really had to pick it up. It is just such a great feeling to be No. 1.”

Saturday’s Class 3A boys preliminaries begin at 7:50 a.m., with the girls prelims to follow at 10:25.

The boys consolation and championship finals will be at 4:20 p.m., and the girls finals will begin at 6:50.

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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