North Allegheny teams sweep WPIAL swimming championships
North Allegheny coach Patrick Wenzel faced a familiar yet challenging set of decisions entering this year’s WPIAL swim championships.
The third-year Tigers coach wanted to rest his swimmers enough to maintain his school’s run of WPIAL championships while also holding off on tapering enough to likewise make the team competitive at the PIAA championships later this month.
Some Tigers tapered, some didn’t, but what didn’t change was the end result. North Allegheny’s boys finished with 442 points — outscoring second-place Mt. Lebanon by 147 — to earn their fifth straight Class AAA title, while the girls team set a school record with its eighth consecutive title, edging the Blue Devils by 34.5 points. Upper St. Clair finished third in both the boys and girls competitions, which concluded Friday at Pitt’s Trees Pool, while Hempfield and Oakland Catholic took fourth in boys and girls, respectively.
“It’s obviously very exciting. We knew this was going to be a much tighter meet and my hat’s off to Mt. Lebanon, those girls swam amazing this weekend,” Wenzel said. “We had enough depth and enough perseverance to pull off the victory.”
In Class AA boys, Quaker Valley won three of five events Friday to surge to its second straight WPIAL title, finishing 23 points ahead of West Allegheny and 35 ahead of Laurel Highlands. Shady Side Academy repeated as the Class AA girls champion, finishing 109 points ahead of second-place Blackhawk and 120 ahead of third-place Derry.
“It is a really big deal because I told the kids, ‘Anybody can be successful one time, but to keep being successful takes a lot of effort,’” Quaker Valley coach Sue Morgan said. “They were really pumped to try and repeat everything.”
North Allegheny sophomore Mason Gonzalez was one of Wenzel’s swimmers that didn’t taper prior to the meet, and he still set the first WPIAL meet record of the day Friday with a 44.82-second 100-yard freestyle. Gonzalez also won the 200 freestyle Thursday.
Also winning multiple events in Class AAA was Peters Township freshman Abby Hay, who surged in the final 150 meters of the 500 freestyle, finishing first in 5 minutes flat to follow up her winning debut in the 200 IM Thursday. In Class AA, Quaker Valley’s Matthew Kwalick (200 IM, 100 freestyle), Highlands’ Bailey Bonnett (200 IM, 500 freestyle) and St. Joseph’s Sabrina Bowman (100 butterfly, 100 backstroke) all finished the meet with gold in multiple individual events.
Following Gonzalez, the other record of the morning came when Mt. Lebanon senior Jack Lanphear swam the 100 breaststroke in 54.82 seconds. It was a time Lanphear said he couldn’t have dropped to without fellow senior Brian Ramsey, who finished 12-hundredths of a second behind in second place.
“We push each other in practice and we’re always trying to be better than each other. We’re always racing,” Lanphear said.
In Friday afternoon’s Class AA meet, Quaker Valley’s Kyle Hrabovsky finished the 100 breaststroke in 58.13 seconds to set a WPIAL meet record, while Geibel senior Emily Zimcosky finished her high school career as a four-time WPIAL champion in the 100 freestyle, swimming the race in a meet-record 50.08 seconds.
“As soon as I started my high school career, Chelsea Grushecky (Yough) won four years straight and I was just like, ‘It would be so crazy to do that as an independent swimmer without a team,’ ” Zimcosky said. “I definitely thought about it all four years. It’s just crazy, and I was so thankful that it all worked out.”
The PIAA swimming and diving championships will be held March 16-19 at Bucknell.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff reporter. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, email@example.com or via Twitter .