For North Allegheny High School, first place is a familiar position when it comes to the WPIAL Class AAA championships.
Both the boys and girls teams held the top spot after the first day of competition Thursday at the University of Pittsburgh Trees Pool.
The girls held a commanding lead with 271 points; Mt. Lebanon was second with 121.
But boys hold only a 11⁄2-point lead — 206 to 204.5 — over Upper St. Clair. A stirring victory for the Panthers in the 200-meter freestyle — the final event on the first day — brought the meet to a razor-sharp differential between the teams.
The Panthers won the race in 1 minute, 23.73 seconds, breaking the record of 1:24.53 set in 1996 by Bethel Park. North Allegheny was second in 1:24.48.
The relay win was a dose of satisfaction for Upper St. Clair’s Alex Hardwick, who had drop out of the 200 freestyle because he had an asthma attack. He was swimming well in the 200 freestyle but grabbed the wall halfway through the race and pulled himself out of the water six lengths into the eight-length race.
“He couldn’t get air, and when you are in the water, that’s a pretty scary position to be in,” coach Dave Schraven said. “It’s going to bother him, but we are going to move on. All he has to focus on now are 50s and 100s.”
The tight race doesn’t surprise first-year North Allegheny coach Patrick Wenzel.
“There are going to be battles for the rest of the meet, and we’re going to see who ends up on top. … What’s neat is that both teams are swimming really well. That’s the way the meet should be. The WPIAL [meet] always produces great swims.”
Records were set in the girls 50 freestyle (23.21) by Mt. Lebanon’s Katie Ford, boys 100 freestyle (48.13) by Upper St. Clair’s Ryan Dudzinski, the girls 200 medley relay (1:42.97) by North Allegheny, and the 200 medley relay (1:31.77) and 200 freestyle relay by the Upper St. Clair boys.
North Allegheny’s boys have won seven of the past eight team championships, and the girls have won the past five team championships.
The Mars boys hold a four-point lead over Indiana, 116-112, and West Allegheny, which has won two titles in a row, leads Blackhawk, 149-131, in the girls meet.
“The girls have been doing a realty good job” West Allegheny coach Bob Miller said. “We did not expect to be in the lead; we were seeded fourth as a team. We were hoping to be within 10 to 15 points after day one. So, having a lead is a bit of a surprise.”
West Allegheny won one event — the 200 medley relay. But the Indians got the majority of their points when they placed at least two competitors in an event.
Mars High forged its lead on the strength of a victory in the 200 medley relay and a 1-2 finish in the 200 individual medley from seniors Christopher Georgiadis and Thomas Pierre.
“We’re strong for day two,” said coach Heidi Brandon. “We have three swimmers in the 500 freestyle, two in the 100 freestyle and we’re seeded first in the 400 freestyle relay. We’re looking good for [today].”