The major story lines heading into the WPIAL swimming and diving championships that will take place over the next week are the ban on high-tech swimsuits and the dominance of the North Allegheny boys' and girls' teams.
The WPIAL Class AA diving championships will take place today at South Park with the Class AAA diving championships tomorrow at Pine-Richland. The WPIAL swimming championships will be March 4 and 5 at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Hall.
In Class AAA, everyone is chasing North Allegheny, the defending WPIAL and PIAA boys' champion and defending WPIAL girls' champion.
The Tigers' dominance extends to diving where junior Connor Kuremsky is the class of the state. The defending state champion has dominated area high school diving since he was a freshman. Butler senior Heath Calhoun is his closest competition, finishing second to Kuremsky at WPIALs last year and third at the PIAA championships.
In girls' diving, Franklin Regional senior Samantha Pickens is the reigning WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA champion.
The overall talent of the WPIAL field looks to be better than it was last season, but times are not likely to drop because of the ban on the high-tech swimsuits that were linked to broken records throughout high school swimming the past few seasons.
The ban was handed down from the National Federation of State High School Associations, and it took effect in August. Most schools have switched to the Speedo LZR Elite swimsuit that meets standards.
"Having better swimmers is always the final thing that dictates the times," West Allegheny swim coach Bob Miller said. "I'm not sure how much the suits helped. I think the suits help confidence-wise. The kids feel fast if they are told it is a fast suit."
No matter what suits anyone wears, there seems to be little doubt that both the North Allegheny girls' and boys' teams will repeat as WPIAL team champions.
"The suits will have no impact as far as I am concerned," North Allegheny coach Corky Semler said. "The relative team strength is the same. If we didn't have the suits last year, the team standings were still the same. We were the fastest team last year."
Every girl on North Allegheny's roster qualified for WPIALs, the first time that has occurred at the school. North Allegheny has so many WPIAL qualifiers, it could win the team title without even winning any events because of that depth.
"No one is even chasing North Allegheny," Bethel Park girls' swim coach Bill Kennedy said. "They will be 200 points ahead of everyone like we were two years ago."
Kennedy's team, along with Peters Township and Latrobe, will be in the mix for second.
On the boys' side, Mt. Lebanon looks to be the closest competitor for North Allegheny in the team standings. North Allegheny has the top reported times in all three relays: the 200 medley and the 200 and 400 freestyle.
North Allegheny's big guns are Jon Buerger and Mark Waugh. Buerger is the defending WPIAL champion and record-holder in the 200 and 500 freestyle. Waugh won the 200 individual medley and broke the WPIAL record in the 100 butterfly last season.
"They have nowhere to go but down," Semler said of his two top swimmers.
Upper St. Clair junior Kyle Dudzinski, the defending state champion in the 100 backstroke, returns as a heavy favorite. He has the top reported time this season.
On the girls' side in Class AAA, Kristen Murslack of Pine-Richland is a top contender in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke. Moon senior Zina Grogg enters the meet as the favorite in the 100 butterfly. She has a top reported time almost three seconds faster than the next best.
In Class AA, Oakland Catholic has dominated the girls' side the past decade. Its closest competitor this year will be Shady Side Academy, a program that has equally dominated the boys' side this decade.
"The Shady Side boys are probably the favorite and top team," Miller said. "Indiana looks pretty tough, and they should be right in there, and I wouldn't count out Quaker Valley."
Ambridge senior Lindsey Vrooman, who swims independently because Ambridge does not sponsor a team, won the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle at the WPIAL and the PIAA championships last year. She will be chased by a pack of swimmers from Oakland Catholic. Four swimmers from Oakland Catholic finished behind Vrooman last year at WPIALs and they all return.
First Published February 26, 2010 5:00 AM