Oakland Catholic's Smith stuns Raab in 200 free
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LEWISBURG, Pa. -- It's a little odd to think of one of the state's best swimmers pulling off an upset.
But Oakland Catholic senior Leah Smith did just that Friday night, even if "upset" is stretching it just a wee bit.
Smith and Hershey junior Meaghan Raab, who had never lost a 200 freestyle race in her high school career, lined up side-by-side in the PIAA Class AAA girls 200 final Friday night at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium.
And thanks to an extraordinary finish, Smith stopped about 800 hearts with a for-the-ages triumph. Her victory in 1:45.42 was not just notable for history -- Raab had reset the PIAA record in the event four times -- but the way it happened.
Smith is a very good 200 freestyle swimmer, but admittedly stronger in the 500, which will be tonight. The 200, clearly, is Raab's forte. So Smith had to alter her race, going with a rare fast start in the opening 100, then using her distance training to finish off the last 100.
Smith stayed in contact with Raab but never led over the first 150. And despite her closing ability, she was worried.
"I lacked some confidence," Smith said.
"I was getting tired at the 150, and she was ahead. I knew I had to rely on my training."
What happened next will become PIAA swimming lore.
Facing the best 200 freestyle swimmer in the state, Smith hit overdrive and reeled off a final 50-yard split of 27.08 seconds. Raab, who expended a great deal of energy holding off Smith's early charge, finished in 28.99 seconds
It was enough for Smith, headed to the University of Virginia, to fly past the tiring Raab for a win by 0.76 seconds.
Smith shot her head out of the water, shrieked when she saw the result and flashed a V to her parents in the stands while Raab lowered her head next to the wall.
Smith was one of two WPIAL champions Friday in Class AAA girls.
Chartiers Valley sophomore Maria Lohman claimed the 1-meter diving title falling well behind the leaders after the first five dives before rallying to the win with 446.20 points. That enabled Lohman to slip past North Penn's Marie Yacopino (443.35).
In Class AAA boys, North Allegheny junior Zachary Buerger claimed the WPIAL's lone gold medal in the 200 individual medley. Buerger clocked a 1:48.08, well ahead of Gabriel Larson of Penn Hills (1:49.92).
Upper St. Clair's Ryan Dudzinski also pulled in a silver, finishing second to La Salle College's Sean Regan in the 100 butterfly.
First Published March 16, 2013 12:12 am