West Allegheny, Mars swimmers win gold

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LEWISBURG, Pa. -- The expressions etched on the faces of WPIAL swimmers Jarod Kehl and Christopher Georgiadis could not have been more opposite.

Kehl of West Allegheny and Georgiadis of Mars climbed out of Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium pool Friday night with the same title -- PIAA swimming champion.

But their reactions spoke to the oft-held notion that not all state championships are equal.

Kehl looked like a lottery winner moments after his victory in the PIAA Class AA 200 freestyle final, a terrific race that found this West Allegheny junior holding off defending PIAA champion Drew Damich of Chartiers Valley.

Kehl, a junior, had reason to smile. He avenged his narrow loss to Damich in the WPIAL meet -- a scant 0.27 seconds -- by an even narrower margin at Bucknell. Kehl's time of 1:40.00 was just 0.05 seconds faster than rapidly closing Damich.

"Yeah, it feels good [to beat Damich]," Kehl said, never losing his smile. "The WPIAL race was a great race and so was [this].

"The PIAA final was always the focus for me," Kehl said. "I didn't taper for the WPIAL met, but I worked on the little things -- my turns, my starts and my kicks. And it paid off."

Contrast that cheery mien with Georgiadis, a senior at Mars who easily handled the field in the 200 individual medley with a time of 1:54.22.

The problem? The time.

Georgiadis simply could not contain his disappointment -- even anger -- at a time he considered far below what he had expected in a PIAA final.

"I'm happy with the win, but I really should have been a lot faster than a 54," Georgiadis said. "When I looked up and saw that, well, I guess people watching on TV saw how angry I was."

That's really not a problem. Top-tier athletes always are unhappy when they fall short of their self-created goals. And Georgiadis actually found a positive in that disappointing time.

"It angered me, but that's a good thing," Georgiadis said. "It was kind of like a shock, so I know I'll be ready to go [for the 100 breaststroke today]."

And Georgiadis acknowledged that the victory was an important piece of Mars' drive toward a team title. The Planets sit third at 79 points behind Camp Hill Trinity (105) and Bloomsburg (83) in a race that is wide open this year.

Kehl and Georgiadis were the lone WPIAL gold medalists -- boys or girls -- on the opening night of the Class AA meet, but there were plenty of near-misses. Including Damich, the WPIAL produced four silver medalists.

In boys, Brad Kolesar of West Mifflin finished second in the 100 butterfly. In girls, Emily Zimcosky of Geibel finished second behind Adriana Grabski of Mifflinburg in the 50 freestyle and St. Joseph's Sabrina Bowman also earned a silver in the 100 butterfly.

The Class AA meet concludes today.

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