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    Tri-State Sports & News Service
    MAR 3, 2022 7:57 PM
    Will Retsch came into the WPIAL Class 2A swimming finals Thursday with a few goals.

    Repeating in the 200-yard individual medley was certainly among them.

    But the Hampton senior never had any idea when he stood on the blocks at Pitt’s Trees Pool awaiting the horn to start the butterfly leg that he was about to get into the fastest race in that event in WPIAL history.

    Retsch was able to defend his title in the 200 individual medley with a time of 1:51.81 that shattered the previous record of 1:53.92 set in 2003 by Brett Murphy of Shady Side Academy.

    Fox Chapel’s Sophie Shao won the WPIAL Class 3A 100 butterfly and broke a 38-year record in the process.
    Keith Barnes
    Fox Chapel’s Sophie Shao wins 100 butterfly, topples longest-standing record in WPIAL
    Retsch won the race in 2021 in 1:54.79.

    “It feels great and there’s nothing beyond that,” Retsch said. “I know what my goal time was and I beat it by a lot. It was everything I could have expected.”

    Setting the record was nice, but as it turned out, it was also necessary. Both runner-up Ben Sheets, also of Hampton (1:52.55), and third-place finisher Matthew Purcell of Northgate (1:53.47) also bested the previous mark.

    “I could totally see down the pool where everyone was,” Retsch said. “It was great competition and great to be pushed by them. It was a great race, especially with my best friend next to me coming in second.”

    Retsch wasn’t done. He came back a few minutes later to capture his first 100 butterfly title with a time of 50.15.

    “It was tiring. It was a tough race. The 2-IM really took it out of me,” Retsch said. “But I worked my underwaters, I knew my arms were going to be dead at the end and I just put it all out there.”

    Retsch set the only record for the boys in his final WPIAL final. But Lily King wasn’t about to wait three years to etch her name at the top of the rolls. The Mount Pleasant freshman swam a 22.74 in the 50 freestyle to edge defending champion Katie Jackovic of South Park by 0.74 seconds.

    Her time also broke the 2015 Class 2A mark of 23.10 set by Geibel’s Emily Zimcosky and was just 0.03 seconds off the Class 3A record of 22.71 set by Gateway’s Olivia Livingston in 2018.

    “It was in the back there, but I was just focusing on what I needed to do,” King said. “I’m just so excited and happy with how my coaches prepared me.”

    She also wasn’t done.

    King wrapped up her day with an incredible anchor leg on the Mount Pleasant 200 freestyle relay and helped the Vikings set the WPIAL record with a 1:37.53. Shady Side Academy held the previous record with a 1:37.69 in 2009.

    Riverside sophomore Joe Roth had already won a WPIAL title when he took the 100 backstroke last year. He still has an opportunity to repeat, but before he gets the chance on Friday, he added the 50 freestyle title to his resume.

    Roth, who also plays basketball for Ellwood City, swam a 21.28 that edged South Park senior Zach Huwalt by 0.52 seconds. He only swam one individual event in 2021.

    He also was a member of the Panthers record-setting 200 freestyle relay team that finished in 1:26.37 to beat the 2016 Quaker Valley standard of 1:27.15.

    Northgate sophomore Elise Nardozzi didn’t set a record in her second WPIAL championship meet. But she sure came close.

    Nardozzi dropped nearly four seconds off her seed time in the 200 freestyle and touched the wall in 1:49.41, just 0.03 seconds off the 1:48.58 from Ambridge and Indiana University graduate Lindsay Vrooman in 2009. In doing so, she won her first individual title and unseated the two-time defending champion in the event, Maeve Kelley of Shady Side Academy.

    “It just feels really good to see all my work pay off,” Nardozzi said. “(The record) is definitely something I can shoot for next year and it will give me something to strive for.”

    Last year, Nardozzi finished second in both the 100- and 200-yard freestyles and was a part of Northgate’s second-place 200 and 400 freestyle relays.

    First Published March 3, 2022.

  • KEITH BARNES, Tri-State Sports & News Service, MAR 3, 2022
    Considering how close Seneca Valley came to winning its first WPIAL Class 3A boys team swimming title in decades last year, the team understands how every point matters.

    So it was no small feat when the Raiders divers went 2-3-4-5 in the finals last weekend.

    “The last couple of years, we’ve had some really strong divers come through, which has always helped us out a bit,” Seneca Valley coach Brian Blackwell said. “Considering how they have been performing, we’re excited to have that component on our team.”

    Starting off with 62 points before the swimmers even step onto the blocks will be a boon for the squad as it looks to end a 47-year drought. It’s especially helpful considering that, last year, the Raiders only finished with 275 points when they finished second to Upper St. Clair by 1.50 points.

    Even so, Seneca Valley is a prohibitive favorite when the two-day meet opens at 9:45 a.m. Thursday at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

    “You can look at seedings and assign points to each place and, according to that, Seneca Valley is the front-runner, for sure,” Upper St. Clair coach Dave Schraven said. “After them we’re second right now, but North Allegheny is right there, Fox Chapel is right there, but anything could happen.”

    For Upper St. Clair to repeat, it will need some of its top performers to come through. And most eyes will be on Panthers senior Ganesh Sivaramakrishnan, who is the top seed in the 100-yard butterfly and the 100 backstroke.

    “He’s the top returner in the state in each of those events, so we felt like that was a natural place for him to be,” Schraven said. “While he’s strong in the freestyle events, we’re looking forward beyond WPIALs to states.”

    Seneca Valley also has a few swimmers slotted into top seeds.

    Junior Haihan Xu is the favorite in the 200 individual medley with a seed time of 1:53.54, while his closest competitor in the event will be his teammate, senior Daniel Simoes, who came in at 1:55.73.

    Simoes is the defending champion in the event where he edged out Upper St. Clair alumnus Josh Matheny with a 1:50.86.

    He is also the top seed in the 100 freestyle with a seed time of 46.65, with teammate Josh Donaldson second with a 46.92. Last year’s WPIAL runner-up, Gateway senior Andrew Holmes is seeded third and not to be discounted after he swam a 45.78 final in 2021.

    Xu, meanwhile, is also the top seed in the 100 breaststroke where he finished a distant third last year with a 57.15 in the final. That was the heat where Matheny set the WPIAL record in his home pool at Upper St. Clair with a 54.40.

    Seneca Valley is also the top seed in all three relays — the 200 medley relay and the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.

    While Seneca Valley is the favorite to win the boys title for the first time since 1975, North Allegheny’s girls team is looking to make history in another way. A Tigers victory would be their 14th in a row and would set the record for most by a girls team in any sport in WPIAL history.

    They currently share the record with the Norwin volleyball team, which won its 13 in a row from 1973-85.

    North Allegheny already has 41 points thanks to its three divers who finished in the top 11 in the WPIAL. Junior Christina Shi won her third consecutive title, while freshman Lola Malarky finished fourth and junior Maddie Whitewolf came in 11th.

    North Allegheny also has a top seed in two individual events in the pool as junior Lexi Sundgren is the favorite to win her first WPIAL titles in the 200 and 500 freestyles.

    As Sundgren seeks to win her first championships, Fox Chapel junior Sophie Shao will be seeking her third consecutive victory in the 100 butterfly. She is also the top seed in the 200 individual medley, where she finished second last year to Tigers alumna Molly Smyers.

    Shao and teammate Talia Bugel are the only returning champions competing in the same events they did last year. Bugel won the 100 backstroke and is the No. 2 seed heading into the finals behind Mt. Lebanon freshman Sylvia Roy.

    Roy is also the top seed in the 50 freestyle, but she won’t have to face defending champion Kaitlyn Connors of Upper St. Clair. Connors will instead be competing in the 100 and 200 freestyles, where she is seeded first and second, respectively.

    First Published March 3, 2022, 7:30pm.

  • The North Allegheny girls swimming team’s quest for a 14th straight WPIAL championship got off to a great start Thursday, as the Tigers netted 212 team points to lead after the first session.

    On the boys side, Seneca Valley is the first-day leader with 219.5 points. The totals for both schools were bolstered by strong showings in last week’s diving championships.

    Christina Shi won gold in the 3A girls competition while Seneca Valley secured spots two through five in the boys meet. The Raiders finished the day strong when the relay team of Dan Simoes, Gavin Blazer, Zach Lozowski and Haihan Shu took the final event, the 200 free relay.

    “Our boys were looking to move up in that relay. We ended up third last year,” coach Brian Blackwell said. “We had a really good showing in the (200 medley relay and took second.”

    Seneca Valley’s Kevin Donaldson won the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:40.22 to help Seneca Valley to the points lead. The Raiders finished second last year, losing to Upper St. Clair by just 1.5 points. Junior Haihan Xu (1:50.96) edged teammate Dan Simoes (1:51.09) in the 200-yard individual medley.

    For North Allegheny, Lexi Sundgren (1:49.00) won the 200 freestyle and teammate Natalie Sens won silver in the 200 IM. The Tigers relay team won the 200 free relay.

    Sylvia Roy from Mt. Lebanon won gold in the 50 free with a time of 23.09.

    “We’re young and we’re excited,” said Mt. Lebanon coach Tom Donati. “We just saw a freshman go 23 (seconds) in the 50 for her first gold medal.”

    Roy’s medal is the first individual medal for the Blue Devils since 2019. The girls team ranks fourth with 124.5 points.

    Fox Chapel’s Sophie Shao won gold medals in the 200 IM (2:02.51) and 100 fly (53.85), breaking the 39-year-old WPIAL butterfly record of 54.16 set by Melanie Buddeymeyer in 1983. Shao was also part of the Foxes’ 200 medley relay first-place finish.

    The Foxes are in second place with 174 points. Seneca Valley is third with 132 points. On the boys side, North Allegheny ranks second with 154 points and Upper St. Clair is third with 147.

    In the Class 2A session, four WPIAL records were set at Trees Pool at the University of Pittsburgh. The first fell early when the Hampton boys won the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:36.92. The Talbots, who won the team title last year, their first in 22-years, lead the 2A boys standings with 158 points.

    Senior Will Retsch won gold in the 200 IM with a time of 1:51.81, which set a WPIAL record. In fact, Ben Sheets, second at 1:52.55, and Matt Purcell from Northgate (1:53.47) in third each bested the previous record of 1:53.92.

    The quartet of Sheets, Zach Sutterlin, Retsch and Dan Bratu broke the record Hampton set last year (1:37.01). Sheets and Retsch returned from that team. Retsch also won gold with a time of 50.15 in the 100 butterfly.

    “The guys are looking really good. They’re a tight group’” coach Morgan Zweygardt said. “After last year, they were really excited and wanted to come back and do it again.”

    The Riverside boys had a great first day at Pitt, ranking third with 97 points.

    Sophomore Joe Roth won gold in the 50 freestyle with a time of 21.28. The boys set a WPIAL record in the 200 freestyle relay (1:26.37), and senior Alex Roth won bronze in the 200 freestyle.

    The Roth brothers attend Ellwood City and both star at basketball, but swimming may be a part of their future.

    “(Alex’s) legs gave out on him at the end, but he’ll be all right. He knows what he needs to do,” said Riverside coach Gwen Nulph. “He’s going to go to college to swim, but he hasn’t decided where yet.”

    When asked about Alex’s little brother Joe, Nulph quipped “I don’t know if you can call him his little brother.” Joe is 6-foot-6 and plans to swim at the higher levels in the future.

    For the 2A girls, Mt. Pleasant leads with 187 points, Quaker Valley is second at 136, and Blackhawk sits in third with 132.

    The Vikings opened by winning the 200 medley relay (1:49.46) and closed by winning the 200 free relay by setting a WPIAL record with a time of 1:37.53.

    Freshman Lily King, who was part of the 200 free relay team, won gold in the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.74.

    Sophomore Elise Nardozzi from Northgate, last year’s 2A girls champions, swam a great race to defeat the favorite Maeve Kelly from Shady Side Academy, 1:49.41 to 1:53.82 in the 200 freestyle.

    Junior Ella Menear from Mapletown won her second consecutive gold medal in the 200 IM with a time of 2:04.46, besting her first-place time from last year.

    The Day 2 sessions for both classifications are set for Friday at Trees Pool with 3A starting in the morning and 2A completing the championships in the afternoon.

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