PG Athletes of the Week: Zach Buerger, Leah Smith

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Zach Buerger, North Allegheny

Last week: Buerger won the 500-yard freestyle and 200 individual medley at the PIAA Class AAA swimming championships last weekend at Bucknell University.

Check this out: Buerger, a junior, didn't just shine individually this season, but he also played a key role for the North Allegheny boys team, which won the WPIAL Class AAA championship and placed fourth in the PIAA championship. Buerger has two brothers who swim collegiately. Jon is a junior at Virginia, and Matthew is a freshman at Notre Dame.

• What's your favorite event? Definitely the IM.

• Do most swimmers at your level have a favorite pool where they like to swim? Yeah. I would say so. My favorite would be Pitt's [Trees Pool] because I've swum there so much. But I also like Bucknell, too.

• Your coach, Corky Semler, is retiring. How special was it to be a part of his final team? It was very special. It gave our teams [boys and girls] more motivation because it was his last year. We needed to send him out on a good note. The stuff he has accomplished is incredible.

• What is the farthest you have travelled for a meet? I went to California for juniors at Stanford.

• Sport you would want to play if you didn't swim? If I could skate, I would play ice hockey.

• Who will win the NCAA basketball tournament? I would probably take Indiana.

• What's the perfect sandwich? It would definitely be the capicola and cheese from Primanti Brothers.

• Who are some of the celebrities you follow on Twitter? I think the only celebrity I follow is Tiger Woods.

• If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be? I think I would just choose to go to Hawaii. I'd just lay out on the beach, relax, and do some surfing.

Leah Smith, Oakland Catholic

Last week: Smith nearly broke a national record in the 500-yard freestyle at the PIAA swimming championships, finishing in 4:36.41, a little less than two seconds short of the United States high school girls' record. In the 200 freestyle, she came back to defeat Hershey's Meaghan Raab, who had never lost in that event in her high school career.

Check this out: Though she did not break the national record in the 500 freestyle, Smith's time put her in the No. 2 all-time spot, ahead of such notable swimmers as Janet Evans. After taking last year off from high school swimming to compete in international meets and the U.S. Olympic Trials, Smith won the 200 and 500 freestyle at both the WPIAL and PIAA meets. Smith, a senior, will swim next season at the University of Virginia.

• What was running through your mind for the last part of that 200 freestyle race? I kind of gained confidence and said 'It's my race and I know I could do it and run her down.'

• When you touched the wall, did you immediately know you won? When I passed her, I could tell I was gaining ground on her and by the time I finished, I had a pretty good idea I had touched her out. I still had to look up to make sure.

• Are you looking forward to getting to Virginia and starting a new chapter of your life and career? I'm very excited for it. It's going to be a lot different, but I think I can handle it and I'm really excited for what's to come.

• Was it bittersweet at all with that being your last high school meet? It was definitely a little sad it was my last high school meet but I'm ready to move on and I'm excited for next year.

• What are you expecting from your freshman year? It'll definitely be hard because I'll have to adjust to new training and it will be hard to balance my school work and swimming. But I definitely think it's manageable. It should be challenging, but fun.

Athlete of the Week


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