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Highlands’ Bonnett wins 3rd WPIAL title in record time | TribLIVE.com
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Highlands’ Bonnett wins 3rd WPIAL title in record time

Jeff Oliver
| Thursday, March 3, 2016 8:30 p.m
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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Bailey Bonnett of Highlands backstrokes in her win in the girls 200 yard IM at the WPIAL Class AA swimming championship Thursday, March 3, 2016 at Pitt's Trees Pool in Oakland.

Highlands junior Bailey Bonnett pushed through pain for nearly her entire 200-yard individual medley Thursday afternoon at Pitt’s Trees Pool in the WPIAL Class AA swimming championships.

But even tight muscles couldn’t keep Bonnett from her third straight title in the 200 IM and the first WPIAL record of this year’s meet.

The junior swam her butterfly and backstroke legs in just 56.76 seconds and finished in 2 minutes, 0.57 seconds, building a gap of several body lengths over the field, including second-place finisher Brooke Zukowski of Knoch, who finished 6.7 seconds back of Bonnett.

“Every year that I’ve swam the 200 IM, I’ve gotten a best time,” Bonnett said. “I feel like that’s what I came here to do is get a best time, so that’s good.”

Though Bonnett said she didn’t necessarily set out to break the WPIAL record Thursday, she bested the 2:01.91 mark set by Indiana’s Rachel Zilinskas in 2010 by more than a second. Bonnett’s time, which was faster than all but four in the Class AA boys 200 IM, brings her within three seconds of Lauren Barber’s PIAA Class AA record of 1:57.76, set last year.

Bonnett was the only individual to set a WPIAL record in Thursday’s meet, but she wasn’t the only repeat champion in the area. St. Joseph senior Sabrina Bowman knew Thursday would be her final shot at swimming the 100 butterfly in a WPIAL meet and she made it count, racing to her third straight first-place finish in 56.88 seconds.

“I was trying to make it as fun as possible,” Bowman said. “I always get really nervous for everything, so I was trying to just focus on my race and not on anyone else around me, just focus on the time I wanted to go for and have fun.”

Bowman, who will swim at St. Francis (Pa.) next year, swam her first 50 yards in 25.89 seconds and said she felt the effects of those fast laps late in the race. Still, she managed to hold off the rest of the pack by nearly two seconds.

“My third lap, from the flags in, I was like, ‘Oh, no,’ ” Bowman said. “I was getting really tired, but then I pushed off the wall and kind of got some of my momentum back and then just looked for the wall and tried my best to finish.”

Also swimming to a convincing win was Springdale junior Kevin Kondrit, who shaved more than seven seconds off his seed time to win the Class AA boys 200 freestyle in 1:41.64 after not swimming the event at last year’s meet. Kondrit challenged the rest of the field with a 48.92-second opening 100 yards and worked to maintain a similar pace in the back half of the race.

“It was kind of an experiment, but I thought I could swim it pretty well, so I decided to try it for this year,” Kondrit said. “My biggest issue with the 200 is usually I don’t take it out fast enough, so this time, I decided to just throw it all there and go as fast as I could and try to hold on.”

Kondrit scored 20 of 12th-place Springdale’s 39 points in the Class AA boys competition, and Bonnett and Bowman each scored 20 of their teams’ 24 points.

Shady Side Academy leads the Class AA girls standings with 160 points, and Knoch is fourth with 77 points. The Knights also sit fourth in the boys Class AA standings with 116 points, 33 points behind leader Laurel Highlands.

The WPIAL Class AAA and AA championships continue Friday with the boys and girls 100 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 400 freestyle relay.

Andrew Erickson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aerickson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @AErickson_Trib.

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