WPIAL boys sparkle again at PIAA Swimming and Diving

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LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Not surprisingly, the second night of the PIAA Class AAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Kinney Natatorium at Bucknell University put the spotlight back on WPIAL swimmers Zach Buerger of North Allegheny and Ryan Dudzinski of Upper St. Clair.

But they had to make a little extra room Thursday night to allow some girls onto the stage, even if gold medals once again escaped the grasp of all but one WPIAL girl.

Buerger, a senior, closed out a spectacular career with a second consecutive gold medal in the 500 freestyle, giving Buerger four open event gold medals and his second gold of the meet.

Dudzinski, a junior, missed a shot at his second gold of the meet when he finished runner-up by 0.23 seconds to Michael Thomas of Hatboro-Horsham in the 100 backstroke. But Dudzinski and Upper St. Clair teammates Alex Hardwick, Patrick Lersch and Fynn Minuth made up for that with a victory in the 400 freestyle relay that just might have been the best in PIAA history.

And the third gold medal of the day went to Chartiers Valley's Maria Lohman, who defended her 1-meter diving title with a PIAA meet-record score of 529.80.

Lohman broke the long-standing mark of 517.20 set in 1999 by Jennifer O'Brien of Penn Hills. That record was the oldest existing PIAA swimming and diving record and the only one remaining from the 20th century.

"Setting the record and diving well was pretty exciting," Lohman said.

The Upper St. Clair relay team trailed for much of the race, but a swift anchor leg by Dudzinski enabled the Panthers to touch in 3:03.04, 0.28 seconds ahead of team champion La Salle College High School and 0.45 ahead of North Allegheny, the team runner-up.

No other WPIAL boy won gold or silver, unlike the girls group.

While Lohman's gold was the lone PIAA victory for WPIAL, WPIAL swimmers performed well Thursday. But they were outdueled by Hershey, which won four of five open events.

In the 100 breaststroke. Hershey's Vivi Tafuto won the event in 1:01.81. The next five places went to WPIAL swimmers -- Katie Fernander of Hampton, Kayla Owens of Greater Latrobe, Amanda Kedzierski of Hempfield, Peyton Kondis of Oakland Catholic and Erin Kuhn of North Allegheny.

North Allegheny's Jacquelyn Du had a great time of 53.91 in the 100 backstroke, but had the misfortune of being next to Hershey star Meaghan Raab, who set a state record in 53.08 for her 13th gold medal. Raab later won her 14th in the 400 freestyle relay.

Norwin's Kathryn Painter had the top preliminary time heading into the 500 final, but Cumberland Valley's Sabrina Mortell slowly pulled away for the win in 4:52.55.

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