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EF swimmer Tracy peaking at the right time

| Friday, March 2, 2012

Braelyn Tracy went into the WPIAL Class AA meet at Pitt's J.C. Trees Pool with similar expectations to everyone else's.

She looked to shave a couple of seconds off her time to improve her seeding for the state finals coming up March 16-17 at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium and, if everything worked out, possibly win a medal.

The Elizabeth Forward swimmer took home a gold medal. How she did it was almost incomprehensible.

Tracy swam a personal-best 1:53.30 to beat Morgan Fink of South Fayette by 0.37 seconds to win the WPIAL Class AA 200-yard freestyle crown. It was her second overall title; she won her first in 2010 when, as a freshman, she swam a 53.53 seconds to win the 100 freestyle.

"I‘ve been working really, really hard all season and I wasn‘t on an actual taper, but I did rest for a few days because I want to really pull it out at states," Tracy said. "This was my best time and I‘m just really happy."

Swimmers tend to record their best times of the year at the WPIAL finals. That she was able to shave nearly nine seconds off her seed time is rare. Tracy came into the race with the third-fastest time in the WPIAL this year at 1:58.20, but cut 8.90 seconds off to win at the end.

"I don‘t think that she‘s fully rested yet and she's going to go faster at states," Elizabeth Forward coach Tammy Blackwood said. "She‘s a big-meet girl, and she doesn‘t get into a lot of big meets during the season and • in our dual meets, she was never really pushed."

Fink didn't push her either. Instead, the South Fayette junior had her on a tether and Tracy had to reel herself in to get back into the race and, eventually, take the lead.

Tracy did not have the lead at any point in the heat until the final turn. When she popped to the surface, she had moved a head in front of Fink and pulled away just enough at the end to touch the wall first.

"I stayed behind her for a very long time, and she's really tall, so I was just hoping that I would be able to catch up to her," Tracy said. "I kept it in my head that I was going to catch her and, even though she had me on the turns, my swimming was a little bit quicker than hers and that‘s what got me ahead at the end."

Tracy wasn't the only person who needed a superlative final turn to pull off an upset. West Mifflin sophomore Brad Kolesar trailed Ringgold senior Kyle Garase throughout the 100 butterfly, but came on in the final 25 yards to finish with in 52.10 — just 0.14 seconds ahead of Garase's 52.24 to win his first WPIAL championship.

"I saw Kyle a little bit ahead of me at the 50 mark and, around 75, I started to bring it back a little bit," Kolesar said. "From there, I just kind of dug my head down there and tried to get that finish in there."

Serra Catholic junior Anita Onufer shaved nearly five seconds off her seed time in the 100 butterfly, but that wasn't nearly enough to catch up to Mars junior — and WPIAL record holder —- Margaret Gruber. Onufer swam a• respectable 59.52, but finished third, as Gruber was just a shade off her record 54.63 with a 55 flat.

Onufer still qualified for the PIAA finals as the top four finishers in Class AA and the top three in Class AAA automatically move into the championship heats.

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