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A-K Valley swimmers must wait another day, but will get shot at PIAA medals

Michael Love
| Monday, March 13, 2017, 10:57 p.m.
First-place finisher Bailey Bonnett of Highlands swims the backstroke leg of the girls 200-yard individual medley during the WPIAL Class AA swimming championships on Thursday, March 2, 2017, at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool in Oakland.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
First-place finisher Bailey Bonnett of Highlands swims the backstroke leg of the girls 200-yard individual medley during the WPIAL Class AA swimming championships on Thursday, March 2, 2017, at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool in Oakland.

Bailey Bonnett has been so close to gold at states in the girls Class AA 200 individual medley.

The Highlands senior took third as a freshman and sophomore and placed second last year.

Bonnett, a four-time WPIAL champion in the event, including two weeks ago with a winning time of 2 minutes, 1.09 seconds, will be shooting for the top when the PIAA championships begin Thursday at Bucknell.

“I am just focused on getting my best times and not worrying about anyone else,” said Bonnett, the WPIAL record holder in the 200 IM (2:00.57).

“I've been working on the little things like having a good start and having good turns and being fast on my kicks off the wall.”

Bonnett, the top seed for the 200 IM, also is gunning for the state record of 1:57.76 held by Wilmington Area graduate Lauren Barber.

She also is in prime position for a run at the 100 breaststroke crown. She switched her focus to the 100 breast after claiming state titles in the 500 the past two years.

Bonnett is the No. 1 seed after setting a WPIAL record two weeks ago with a winning time of 1:01.61.

She is in range of the state record of 1:01.09, also held by Barber.

Records, medals and championships in Class AA will be decided Thursday and Friday before Class AAA takes over Saturday and Sunday.

Springdale senior Kevin Kondrit, fresh off a pair of WPIAL titles in the 200 and 500 freestyles, is the No. 2 seed for both events at states.

Last year, Kondrit was seeded second in the 200 freestyle and finished fourth.

“That showed that just because I am seeded second, it doesn't mean I am guaranteed at least that spot,” Kondrit said. “I know I have to work hard and swim my fastest to maintain that or win the title. That has helped me this year to stay focused.”

He will be gunning for gold in the 500 after switching from the 100 free. He took 12th at states in the 100 free as a sophomore and swam in the championship heat last year, finishing eighth overall.

“I know a lot of others will be gunning for me, and I have to be gunning for the guy at the top in both of my events.”

Senior teammate Collin Hurley came close to a WPIAL title in the 100 breast. He took second (59.01) and trailed the champion, Knoch senior John Wilson, by 0.18 of a second.

He placed sixth at states in the event last season and in 2015, and he is seeded sixth heading into Thursday's preliminaries.

“Where I am seeded is good, and I always look to improve on that,” Hurley said. “It's going to be a fast meet, and I know a lot of people are going to throw down fast times, but I am going to do my best to improve on my seeding and see where that takes me.”

Hurley also is the No. 8 seed in the 200 IM after taking third in the event at WPIALs (1:58.21). He hopes to be in the championship heat (top eight after the preliminaries) Thursday evening.

Last year, Hurley swam in the consolation final and placed 11th, his highest finish in the event in three tries at Bucknell.

Bonnett and three Highlands swimmers making their PIAA debuts — senior Jocelyn Gillette and freshmen Breea Bonnett and Rachel Blackburn — will team up in the girls 200 free relay.

“This is really nice because I don't think Highlands has made a relay to states in a really long time,” Bailey Bonnett said.

The quartet is seeded 20th after placing fourth at WPIALs with an automatic state-qualifying time of 1:41.77.

The same four took fifth in the 200 medley relay at WPIALs (1:53.47), but the event was loaded and their time of 1:53.47 wasn't fast enough to get them a time-qualifying spot.

Two other area freshmen will make their first appearances at states.

Kiski Area's Naomee Miller will swim both days of the Class AAA championships. She will take to the pool in the girls 200 IM on Saturday and the girls 100 breast Sunday. She earned medals in both events at WPIALs — a sixth in the 200 IM and eighth in the 100 breast.

She is seeded 20th in the 200 IM (2:08.11) and 13th in the 100 breast (1:04.89).

Deer Lakes freshman Renee Robson is the No. 16 seed in the 50 free (24.64) and 100 freestyle (53.52).

She punched her ticket automatically in the 50 free after taking fourth at WPIALs. She was sixth at WPIALs in the 100 free.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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