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Connellsville swimmers pursue school marks

There are different sources of motivation for swimmers at the WPIAL championships, which will be held Thursday and Friday at the Pitt's Trees Pool.

Finishing on the medal stand, recording a personal best or making a trip to states are reasons for swimmers to try to turn in their best effort later this week.

For the four Connellsville qualifiers, an opportunity to have their names in the school's record book may be their biggest source of inspiration.

Kendra Wagner, Rachel Barczyk, Leah Lilley and Sierra Emert will compete in the 200 freestyle relay Thursday and the 400 freestyle relay Friday. Wagner will compete in the 200 freestyle Thursday and the 500 freestyle Friday.

Barczyk will take part in the 200 freestyle Thursday.

"I'm really proud of them," said Connellsville coach Marie Nedley, noting that the group has worked hard to reach this level.

The girls are seeded 17th in the 200 freestyle relay (1:46.74) and 23rd in the 400 freestyle relay (3:58.42).

More importantly, the group is a little more than two seconds from setting the school record in the 200 freestyle relay (1:44.67).

"Right now, we're focused on getting our times better, but I know they want to get the 200 freestyle relay record," Nedley said.

Lilley, Wagner and Emert all competed in the relays at WPIALs last year, but Barczyk, a transfer from Southmoreland, is new to the group. She's looking forward to the competition.

"I'm excited for both relays," Barczyk said.

Wagner (1:59.96) is seeded 15th in the 200 freestyle, and Barczyk (2:04.75) is seeded 37th. Being able to qualify for an individual event is a nice accomplishment for Barczyk.

"The hardest part was making it," Barczyk said. "I didn't have the best start to the season, but the most rewarding part was looking up at the clock in our final meet and seeing that I made it by one-tenth of a second."

For Wagner, competing in the 200 freestyle represents a chance for her to break her school record of 1:55.31. She also holds the school record in the 200 individual medley, 100 butterfly, 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke.

Wagner will also get the chance to set a record in the 500 freestyle (5:24.29). She is seeded 16th at WPIALs. Ironically, the school record-holder in the event is Nedley, Wagner's coach. Nedley's school record is 5:05.05, set in 2005.

"I know she's going for it," Nedley said. "Part of me doesn't want to see it (the record) go. But at the same time, I want to see Kendra swim a really great race."

Wagner acknowledged that going for the record gives her plenty of motivation.

"It's going to be difficult, but I'm trying hard and I'm going to go for it," Wagner said.

Nedley is optimistic that all of her swimmers will turn in strong performances at WPIALs.

"They've been swimming pretty well," Nedley said. "They've been pretty consistent with their times, and I think at WPIALs they can really bust one out."

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