WPIAL swimmers claim 7 state titles on first day of PIAA AAA championships
By: Michael Love
Saturday, March 16, 2019 | 7:05 AM
LEWISBURG — Of the 12 Class AAA swimming state titles earned Thursday on Day 1 of the PIAA championships at Bucknell University, seven were collected by WPIAL individuals or relays.
The winning started with the Mt. Lebanon girls 200-yard medley relay and ended about four hours later when the North Allegheny boys 200 free relay stood victorious atop the medals podium.
Girls 200 medley relay
Elizabeth McDyer swam the anchor for the Mt. Lebanon 200 medley relay in the preliminaries and helped the group, including Hannah Morelli, Maddie Dorish and Trinity Ward, grab the No. 1 seed for the finals (1:44.96).
Sophia Donati then took the baton from McDyer and anchored the relay in the finals to a state title (1:43.04).
“Because Elizabeth jumped in there for the preliminaries, Sophia was able to swim the 200 free right after,” Mt. Lebanon coach Tom Donati said. “Sophia was able to get into the consolation final and get us a valuable team point.
“Elizabeth is a great teammate, and she understood what we wanted to do in the finals. I want to make sure we get her a medal because she deserves it.”
Girls 100 butterfly
Ward came back in the 100 butterfly and bested the field with a time of 54.19. She outraced a group of six District 1 swimmers who placed second through seventh.
“I felt good and did what my coach told me to do,” Ward said. “I just went out and swam it. I was super grateful and happy to be (in the finals) and living off the momentum from the medley relay.”
Ward swam a personal best of 54.14 to win the state title as a sophomore. Last year, she placed fourth (55.69).
Girls 200 individual medley
Zoe Skirboll was confident she could go under two minutes in the finals of the 200 individual medley.
The Fox Chapel freshman recorded a time of 2:00.25 to finish second at WPIALs on Feb. 28. But she raised the bar in her finals race Thursday with a winning time of 1:58.75.
“It was a fast swim, and I’m just so happy with it,” Skirboll said. “I looked up (at the scoreboard) and saw that I had won, and I was stunned beyond belief. That heat was filled with super-duper fast girls. I was just so happy to be a part of that race. It was just an amazing experience.”
North Allegheny’s Torie Buerger tied for second with Downingtown East’s Heather MacCausland (2:00.96). WPIAL champion Laura Goettler from Butler took fifth (2:02.24).
Skirboll is the first WPIAL swimmer to win a Class AAA girls state title in the 200 IM since Mt. Lebanon graduate Kaitlyn Orstein won back-to-back PIAA crowns in 2003 and ‘04.
Girls 50 freestyle
Gateway junior Olivia Livingston now is a three-time state champion as she claimed her third 50 free title in a time of 23.00.
She had hoped to produce a personal best — faster than 22.71 — but she said she’s excited to own another gold medal.
“I feel very blessed to be in this position because not many girls get to do something like this,” she said. “I’m thankful for that, no matter what.”
Livingston arrived at the state meet owning the 50 free record of 22.73.
That record fell Friday during the finals heat of the 200 free relay.
MacCausland swam the lead leg of the Downingtown East relay, and her split time of 22.67 is accepted by the PIAA as the new record.
Livingston hopes to add a second PIAA victory Saturday in the 100 free. She finished second in the event the past two seasons.
“I am looking forward to racing some really fast girls,” Livingston said. “I know they will push me and help me go faster.”
Boys 200 medley relay
North Allegheny was the best in the preliminaries of the boys 200 medley relay, but Upper St. Clair, third overall heading to the finals, edged NA by three one-hundredths of a second to take the title.
Seniors Jack Fitzpatrick and Reese Samuel, sophomore Josh Matheny and freshman Ryan Senchyshak swam to a time of 1:30.67.
“I knew going into the race I had to go faster than I ever had gone before,” said Senchyshak, the team’s anchor who rallied from third place to out-touch Tigers senior Joel Songer at the wall.
“We had to just execute what we had been practicing all season. That finish was closer than I ever could’ve imagined. Props to all the other relays in the race, especially North Allegheny. They all did an amazing job.”
North Allegheny bested Upper St. Clair by 18 one-hundredths of a second to win the WPIAL title at Pitt’s Trees Pool on Feb. 28.
Boys 200 freestyle
Senior Jack Wright picked up a state title for the Tigers in the 200 freestyle. He repeated as state champion with a time 1:35.04, more than three seconds faster than runner-up Liam Smith, a junior from LaSalle College in District 12.
“Although I didn’t go faster than last year (1:34.77), it feels good to come out on top,” Wright said. “I really wanted to focus on taking it out quick and then maintaining a lead. That worked out well for me.”
Boys 200 free relay
Wright later joined Mt. Lebanon’s Ward as winners of multiple PIAA championships in the Thursday evening session.
As the anchor of the 200 free relay, Wright helped the NA relay achieve its goal of a state title with a season-best time of 1:22.48.
Junior Branko Kosanovich, who came to North Allegheny from Chicago at the start of the school year, swam the lead leg and transitioned to Songer, who then gave way to Joshua Galecki.
“To come to a team that has won a lot of state championships, it’s been a great experience,” Kosanovich said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to win this with.”
Teams at the top
With its pair of state titles, as well as other top-16 finishes Thursday, including Rick Mihm as the runner-up in the 200 IM, North Allegheny leads the boys team race with 152 points after Day 1.
The Mt. Lebanon girls are in a close team race. They are tied for fourth with 87 points and are just four away from second. North Penn is first with 187 points.
Class AAA – Day 2
Saturday’s AAA preliminaries in the 100 free, 500 free, 100 backstroke, 100 breast and 400 free relay begin at 8 a.m. (girls) and 10:50 a.m. (boys).
The Class AAA boys divers will take center stage at 12:55 p.m.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .