A-K Valley swim teams get WPIAL tune-up at WCCA meet
There’s no better place to be on a cold and snowy day than in the swimming pool.
Participants agreed on that while at Derry on Saturday afternoon for the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Swimming and Diving Championships.
Three teams from the Alle-Kiski Valley — Kiski Area, Burrell and Valley — competed in a tuneup before the WPIAL championships, a two-day event that ends March 1.
“My swimmers have definitely met expectations,” Burrell coach Sam Bindas said. “Every swimmer has dropped time. We got multiple WPIAL qualifiers. It gives us a bit of a confidence boost to show that we are capable of swimming against (Class) AAA teams.”
The Mt. Pleasant girls took the Class AA team title with 152 points. Burrell (89 points) finished fourth in Class AA, and Valley was 13th with 10 points.
In Class AAA, the Kiski Area girls finished sixth with 100 points. Franklin Regional (341), Penn-Trafford (329) and Hempfield (315) were the top-three finishers.
Burrell sophomore Hannah Pastor finished 10th in the 200-yard freestyle in 2 minutes, 9.59 seconds. Her time was second best among Class AA competitors.
Cecilia Caprino finished 11th (6:03.53) in the 500 freestyle and the quartet of Carly Walton, Claire Linderman, Grace Giordano and Caprino placed ninth (1:53.71) in the 200-freestyle relay.
“It sets the bar high for the kids,” Bindas said. “It helps the kids realize that it doesn’t matter who you swim for, you can be just as good where ever you are.”
The Kiski Area girls enjoyed some success. Senior Meredith Pepka finished fifth (1:01.74) in the 100 butterfly and was eighth (25.46) in the 50 freestyle. Pepka was a little nostalgic in her last WCCA competition.
“It is a little sad, looking back and seeing all of the good memories, good swims and the good times,” Pepka said. “It definitely makes me happy to be here.”
Pepka swam anchor in Kiski’s 200 freestyle relay. Megan Hastings, Jordan Zellers, Sophie Shannon and Pepka finished in 1:47.14.
A few girls’ records fell Saturday afternoon. Mt. Pleasant senior Heather Gardner beat her WCCA record from a year ago (1:05.57) in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:04.30. Hempfield’s 200 freestyle relay team of Maddy Cisco, Emma Martz, Jordan Crupie and Francesca Nemetz knocked down Penn-Trafford’s record (1:40.11) from 2017 with a time of 1:38.80.
On the boys side, Kiski Area finished fifth among Class AAA schools. For the second year in a row, Penn-Trafford walked away as the boys champs with 387 points. Franklin Regional (363), Hempfield (310) and Latrobe (217) round out the top four. In Class AA, Belle Vernon was first with 184 points.
Kiski Area senior Brenden Brzozowski turned in a strong performance. The Edinboro commit finished fourth in the 200 freestyle (1:50.37) and 100 butterfly (54.37). His finish was a little off last year’s first-place mark, but Brzozowski isn’t going to loose any sleep over it.
“I medaled, and the other kids were faster,” Brzozowski said. “That means that next year, those kids will be even faster, and it will be an even better thing to watch here.”
Brzozowski swam anchor in the 400 freestyle relay that included Jack Coleman, Dan Watt and Landon Newell. They finished fourth (3:33.81). Coleman, a freshman, showed he’s ready to carry the torch forward as he picked fourth-place finishes in the 200 IM (2:07.13) and 100 backstroke (57.36).
Boys records that fell came in the 100 backstroke where Belle Vernon’s Ian Shahan beat his record of 53.12 set a year ago with 52.46. Greensburg Salem’s William Crites set a record in the 100 breaststroke (59.20). Hempfield’s Gavin Mayo broke a 7-year-old record in the 50 freestyle, posting a time 21.29.
“I love the competition here,” Brzozowski said. “It’s nice to see where you are at this point in the season. You can use this to base how you’re going to do at WPIAL’s.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.