On the surface it might seem like just another year for North Allegheny at the WPIAL Class AAA swimming finals at Pitt’s Trees Pool.
After all, in what seemingly has become an annual rite of passage, the Tigers boys won their fifth consecutive team title while the girls captured their eighth in a row. The boys rolled past second-place Mt. Lebanon, 442-295, while the girls bested the Blue Devils, 348-313.5.
North Allegheny became the first school in any sport in WPIAL history to concurrently hold boys and girls titles for five consecutive years.
“That’s pretty humbling. I didn’t realize that and it’s not something we talked about,” North Allegheny coach Patrick Wenzel said. “That’s something I will have to tell them about because I was unaware. They deserve it.”
Wentzel took over in 2013 and won the past three titles in the streak after longtime coach Corky Semler retired. Taking over for a Hall of Fame coach was a challenge, but Wentzel knew what he was getting into.
“The nice part is that I’ve been a part of the program for over decade and a lot of these kids have swum for me,” Wentzel said. “I was lucky to have a great mentor who taught me an awful lot about how to train them, how to rest them and how to do things correctly as a program.”
North Allegheny opened the day with wins in the boys and girls 100-yard freestyle as junior Lauren McGrath swam a 50.90 to beat Mt. Lebanon’s Hannah Bumgarner by 0.70 seconds. Sophomore Mason Gonzalez added to his medal count with a WPIAL-record 44.82 finish, which edged Penn Hills senior Norman Gregory by 0.42.
Gonzalez, who won the 200 freestyle on the first day of the meet, eclipsed the previous mark of 45.02 set a year ago by North Hills’ Brian Lovasik.
“This just feels so nice because I put so much work in,” Gonzalez said. “This year I decided to taper for states instead of WPIALs, so I had a goal in mind for this meet and it wasn’t anywhere near that.”
Peters Township freshman Abby Hay also won her second WPIAL Class AAA title after swimming a 5:00 flat to win the 500 freestyle. After her victory Thursday in the 200 individual medley, she became the first freshman in more than a decade to win multiple individual Class AAA titles.
“This wasn’t expected,” Hay said. “I just came here trying to do my best and it really hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Mt. Lebanon’s Brian Ramsey turned in a record-setting performance in the 100 breaststroke that should have given him his second title of the meet, but his teammate, Jack Lanphear did him one better. Lanphear swam a 54.82-second final to beat Ramsey by 0.12 seconds and break the year-old record of 56.26 set by North Allegheny’s Casey Melzer.
“Honestly, I would not be where I am today if it were not for Brian Ramsey,” Lanphear said. “It’s insane.”
Upper St. Clair senior Kevin Liu became the only swimmer in Class AAA to defend a title when he captured his second championship in the 100 backstroke. Liu outdueled teammate Braedon Wong and finished with a time of 48.97 to win by 1.39 seconds.
Emily Zimcosky failed to defend her Class AA crown Thursday in the 50 freestyle, but she came back with a vengeance in the 100 freestyle. This Geibel senior completed a sweep of the event, winning all four years and closing it out with a record 50.08 that bested her 2015 mark by 0.44.
In the final individual event of the day, senior Kyle Hrabovsky set the record in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 58.13 to help Quaker Valley repeat as team champion with a 249.5-226.5 win against West Allegheny. He beat the 2012 record from the Quakers’ Bobby Francis by 0.33 seconds. Shady Side Academy repeated girls champs with a 291-182 edge over Blackhawk.