South/West Xtra: Char Valley soph wins two titles

SWIMMING PIAA CLASS AA FINALS

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Chartiers Valley sophomore Drew Damich pulled off wins in both the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races at the PIAA Class AA Championships last week.

According to the reports, the 500-yard race was a back-half stalemate between Damich and Montour's Jarod Kehl. The two swam side-by-side, spaced at only 0.02 seconds, for the final 200 yards in Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium pool, the site of this year's state championship meet.

"Going into the race, my goal was to get out ahead and in front," Damich said. "I tried to tire [Kehl] out and I ended up tiring myself out and I had to hang with him ... I pulled it out the last 50 [yards]."

Chartiers Valley coach Heidi Fiorentini was very confident in Damich's abilities, but she hadn't discounted Kehl's.

"You never know how close a race will be," she said. "All of the swimmers devote a tremendous amount of time and dedication to the sport. So, when they dive in, it is anyone's race. As they say, if you have a lane, you have a chance."

In the 200-free, the end of the race wasn't quite as dramatic. Damich posted a time of 1:40.52 -- about a second and a half ahead of second-place finisher Matthew Leenhouts of Fleetwood.

"Going into it, I wasn't sure if I was going to win or not. But I had a goal time in mind," Damich said.

Damich had wanted to break 1:40 in the 200, and his time was half a second off. But just shooting for his goal was what got him the win, and he was happy with that.

In addition to being a state title winner in two races, Damich swam in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay events at the state meet. The Colts' 200-yard relay team finished in ninth place with a time of 1:30.26. The 400-yard relay finished 13th with a time of 3:21.12.

"It was really fun to be there with my team," Damich said. "It was nice to have a relay there this year."

Interestingly, Damich has not completed his swimming season, even after earning two state titles. He is competing this week in the 2013 Speedo Championship Spring Sectional meet taking place at Virginia Tech.

At the sectional meet, Damich is competing in the 50-, 200-, 500-, and 1,000-yard freestyle races. He will also compete in the 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley.

"I'm trying to qualify for Junior Nationals," Damich said. "I'm a second off in the 200 [freestyle], so that's what I'm going for."

The boys' qualifying time for 200 freestyle in the 2013 Speedo Junior Nationals is 1:39.49.

Although it's still a long way off, Damich noted that he would like to swim in college.

"I want to go to a college with Division I swimming and an engineering program," he said.

Currently, Damich's engineering interests include aeronautical and aerospace engineering.

Damich was not Chartiers Valley's only state title winner this year; fellow sophomore Maria Lohman captured the PIAA Class AAA diving title with a score of 446.20. Lohman edged North Penn's Marie Yacopino, who scored 443.35.

"Maria performed tremendously well," Fiorentini said. "She has been training extremely hard and all of her work paid off."

Overall, Fiorentini concluded that although they are only sophomores, Lohman's and Damich's leadership was part of a more overriding theme of Chartiers Valley swimming this season.

"The team is really unified," she said. "They all get along really well and encourage each other. They push each other at practice and at meets."

This season, they pushed hard enough to bring three state titles home to Char Valley High.

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