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High School Swimming

North Allegheny senior swimmers ready to win more hardware

Josh Rizzo
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North Allegheny swimmer Branko Kosanovich is a first-year swimmer for the Tigers after transferring from Chicago.

Listing all the accomplishments earned by the seniors on the North Allegheny swim team would have likely lasted longer than its meet last Wednesday against North Hills.

A list of team accomplishments pops off the page as the Tigers prep for the WPIAL championship, which begins Feb. 28 at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

“I can say with 100 percent certainty we wouldn’t be where we are without each other,” said senior Jack Wright, who is a Virginia recruit. “We don’t have as many teams to compete with and try to push each other to new limits. Every day it is a race against each other.”

North Allegheny’s seniors — boys and girls — have won three WPIAL team titles, running the Tigers’ streak to eight straight for girls and five in a row for the guys.

Both senior classes were 46-0 in dual meets. The boys twice brought home PIAA championships and a national title as well.

“To be elite-level swimmers, you have to find motivation from within,” North Allegheny coach Patrick Wenzel said. “The team competes hard against each other in practice. It’s a lot of fun to watch them practice.”

The Tigers’ teams each defeated North Hills last Wednesday. North Allegheny swept Mars in the previous meet.

Wenzel said not much will change in how the Tigers prepare for the postseason.

“At this point, we are just fine-tuning things,” Wenzel said.

The North Allegheny boys will have plenty of heavy hitters striving to repeat their performances from last season. Rick Mihm is the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle, and Jack Wright will try to repeat as the WPIAL and PIAA champion in the 200 free.

Joel Songer and Jerry Chen provide depth.

“We lost a good number of good seniors last year and they are hard to replace,” Wright said. “Everyone on our team is ready for the challenge and knew what we had to work on to take the title again. We are excited to get back to Pitt and hopefully Bucknell to get another WPIAL and state championship.”

Junior Torie Buerger, who was the WPIAL champion in the 100 backstroke, and sophomore Molly Smyers, who was the WPIAL champ in the 500 freestyle, are looking for repeat performances.

Seniors Lila McGrath and Mary Flavin were All-Americans in relays, and sophomore Maya Ennis will look to challenge for the WPIAL title in diving.

Considering what this group has already accomplished, North Allegheny should plan for more accolades coming their way.

Wenzel wouldn’t expect anything different.

“Obviously, we have quite a few past WPIAL and state championships,” Wenzel said. “We strive for excellence. We’re more worried about the time than the place.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.