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North Allegheny swimmers sweep WPIAL championships

| Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, 8:09 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
North Allegheny junior Casey Melzer swims the boys 100-yard breaststroke, coming in first in the fifth heat for the event at the WPIAL Class AAA swimimng championships Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at Trees Pool in Oakland.

The Upper St. Clair boys may have won the battle, but North Allegheny, as has become its custom, won the war.

Ryan Dudzinski powered the Panthers to the 400-yard freestyle relay title to close the WPIAL Class AAA Swimming Championships Friday at Pitt's Trees Pool.

The anchor leg sealed a WPIAL-record time of 3 minutes, 3.63 seconds — one of five records broken Friday, 11 overall — but North Allegheny still won its third consecutive title and eighth in the past nine years.

“With such a close race with USC this year, it was so fun to finally pull this one off,” NA's Zach Buerger said.

The Tigers had 373.5 points to surpass Upper St. Clair (364) and Mt. Lebanon (235).

One of two individual event winners Friday — Sam Rutan in the 500 free was the other — Casey Melzer's first-place 56.67 in the 100 breaststroke finally let the Tigers breathe easy.

“I know (Thursday) all of us were scared. ‘What if, you know?' ” Melzer said. “We came here (Friday) with such a sense of drive.”

So did the North Allegheny girls, who cruised to the Class AAA title with 471 points. Mt. Lebanon (189) was second.

Jacquelyn Du swam on two winning relays — the 400 free setting a WPIAL mark — and won the 100 backstroke in a record 54.20.

“I knew that our team could do this,” Du said. “But the feeling of standing up on the podium is new every year.”

After taking over for longtime North Allegheny coach Corky Semler, Patrick Wenzel coached both teams — with Semler looking on.

“Two WPIAL titles in my first year ... I'm not going to take it for granted,” Wenzel said. “I know these things don't happen all the time.”

Mt. Lebanon's Katie Ford set a second WPIAL record after winning the 100 free in 50.63. North Hills' Brian Lovasik took the boys 100 in 45.36. Both won titles in the 50 on Thursday.

Hampton's Katie Fernander held off a charge from Latrobe's Kayla Owens, who was seeded sixth — to take gold in the 100 breaststroke.

“All year long people have been telling me she's the one to beat,” Fernander said. “I've trained with her. I knew she was going to be there.”

Dudzinski broke his older brother Kyle's record in the 100 backstroke (48.35).

Christopher Georgiadis nearly won a gold medal for every member of the Class AA Mars boys team, which has only six members.

Georgiadis, a four-time winner, took first in the 100 breaststroke in 1:00.24 and swam the third leg on the Planets' first-place 400 freestyle relay team that also included Reed McDonough, Thomas Pierre and Francis Folz, the 100 freestyle champion.

Mars finished with 233 points to beat out Quaker Valley (170).

“I couldn't have asked for anything better,” Georgiadis said. “It's such a way to end senior year — at least WPIALs.”

Despite winning just one individual event, West Allegheny won its third girls title in the past four years, 227-199, over last year's champion, South Fayette.

“You don't have to win every event; you have to score in them,” West Allegheny coach Bob Miller said. “As a team, we were solid doing that.”

Chartiers Valley's Drew Damich picked up his second WPIAL gold by clocking a 4:35.88 in the 500 free.

The top three finishers from all Class AAA events advance to the PIAA meet March 12-15 at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium. Class AA swimmers get four girls and five boys entrants to states.

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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