Retiring Semler's teams sweep Class AAA swimming titles

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Kirk Semler's swimmers said that they wanted to send North Allegheny's beloved coach out with a win in his final WPIAL meet.

Friday at Pitt's Trees Pool, they were able to do just that, capturing the boys and girls Class AAA championships.

Semler will retire at the end of the season, and his teams provided a fitting end for the dynasty he created. With the victories Friday, North Allegheny's boys and girls teams have combined to win 12 WPIAL titles in the past eight seasons.

"There's no better feeling in life than devoting yourself to a goal and achieving it through a lot of hard work," Semler said. "They did it. I told them before, 'Don't do it for me, do it for yourselves, do it for your school, do it for your families and, if it happens, I'll enjoy the ride.' "

The team championships marked the conclusion of another strong performance for North Allegheny. Three of the Tigers won individual events with Jacquelyn Du and Morgan Soulia setting WPIAL records. Both 400-yard freestyle relay teams finished first.

Upper St. Clair finished second in the boys competition, and Oakland Catholic was a distant second on the girls side.

As she did Thursday in the 200-yard freestyle, Oakland Catholic's Leah Smith dominated the field in the 500-yard freestyle, breaking her WPIAL record with a time of 4:39.78. She finished 22 seconds ahead of the second-place contestant and, with her time, she would have finished fourth among the boys.

Kristen Murslack of Pine Richland finished in first for the third consecutive year in the 100-yard breaststroke and tied her WPIAL record time, something she said is strange to think about with her career as a Ram ending soon.

"It's kind of bittersweet," Murslack said. "I have two more weeks of high school swimming; then it's over forever. I'm just trying to make it last."

Upper St. Clair's Alex Hardwick, after coming in second each of the past two years won the boys 100-yard freestyle one day after he won the 200-yard freestyle.

Whereas North Allegheny has had a consistent presence atop the podium at the WPIAL championships, South Fayette had never been in such a position in Class AA.

The Lions' girls team won the school's first WPIAL title in either boys or girls swimming, finishing with 252 points in Class AA.

"It's an awesome feeling," South Fayette coach Matt Tucker said.

"All the kids' work has paid off."

Indiana won its third consecutive WPIAL boys team championship, the school's first three. After finishing fourth each of the past two years, the Little Indians' Jon Haycock won the 100-yard breaststroke.

Beaver's Cameron Clerici, in his final WPIAL meet, was able to defend his title in the 100-yard freestyle after finishing first in the 50-yard freestyle Thursday.

"Last year, my coach converted me into a sprinter, so I knew I had all year to focus on it and I was really working in practice," Clerici said.

"It's a great way to finish it off."

Fresh off her record-breaking time in the 100-yard butterfly Thursday, Mars' Margaret Gruber broke another one of her WPIAL records in the 100-yard backstroke.

The PIAA championships will begin March 13 in Lewisburg, Pa.

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Craig Meyer: and Twitter: @craig_a_meyer. First Published March 2, 2013 5:00 AM


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