The South Fayette girls swim team won the Lions' first WPIAL Class AA championship last Thursday and Friday at the University of Pittsburgh. The girls were so confident going into the championships that they bet on themselves.
"They bet me that if all three girls' relays made it to states, they'd shave my head," said head coach Matt Tucker. And the girls won their bet.
After a team meal after the championship meet concluded Friday, each swimmer took turns with the clippers. By the time Tucker got up from the table, he was completely bald.
He didn't care. For South Fayette, there were just so many highlights.
"The first medley relay was only half a second from the WPIAL record. ... I thought they were going to break it," Tucker said.
Mary Rosati, Morgan Fink, Maddie Bartrug and Tiana Marese won the 200-yard medley relay handily with a time of 1:49.07. The WPIAL record for Class AA is 1:48.64, set in 2002 by Oakland Catholic.
"The last relay winning is the other thing that really jumps out," Tucker added. South Fayette's 400-yard freestyle relay squad was Bartrug, Rosati, Sydney Briner and Fink. They won the race with a time of 3:42.59 -- roughly seven seconds ahead of second-place West Allegheny.
"Morgan Fink really went in that 100 breaststroke," Tucker said of the championship's highlights. "That really sealed the deal. Anna Paccapaniccia from Indiana led [Fink] the whole way until the last turn."
At that time, Fink pulled out to get ahead of Paccapaniccia in the last leg of the 100-yard breaststroke. In the end, Fink came in first at 1:05.01. She out-touched St. Joseph's Holly Stein by half a second. Paccapaniccia placed third, 0.6 seconds behind Fink.
Fink was far from spent. She swam in the next girls event (the 400-yard relay). Fink anchored the race with a 52.65 second leg.
"Morgan, for her to come back on the relay and go 52 ...," Tucker said, "it was a great win. I'm so proud of all these girls."
Tucker noted that Rosati, a senior freestyle specialist, experienced significant time drops in the meet. Her seed time in the 200-yard IM was 2:16.85, but her finals time in the event was 2:08.64. Rosati placed second to Freeport's Bria Otwell in the individual medley, but only by a tenth of a second.
Tucker explained, however, that Rosati found confidence and motivation in the fact that she'd pushed and challenged Otwell. In turn, Rosati was able to go out in the 500-yard freestyle event faster than she'd gone in the 200-yard individual medley. Likewise, Rosati placed fourth with a time of 5:06.65. (Freeport's Otwell was third, at 5:04.36.)
To finish off the championships last Friday, Tucker and the team held hands and jumped into the pool at Trees Hall together.
Tucker described the girls' team's reaction to the WPIAL championship as being "so happy." However, South Fayette is now focused on states. The Lions won the early January Big Six championship -- an invitational meet in York. South Fayette is using its Big Six win as a yardstick for the PIAA Class AA meet.
"It bodes well for states," Tucker said.