Derry's Baum enters PIAA meet as favorite in 100 fly
At 6-foot-4, Derry senior Zach Baum is easy to spot, but he will really stand out at the PIAA Class AA boys swimming championship meet Thursday and Friday at Bucknell University in Lewisburg.
Baum (50.29 seconds) is seeded first in the 100-yard butterfly event.
“Being seeded first is a massive amount of pressure, but I have no doubt I can live up to it,” he said. “I've done a lot of work in practice.
“I wasn't tapered for WPIALs, so I'm sure I'll be able to drop a couple tenths of a second.”
Baum set a meet record at the WPIAL championship March 2-3 at Pitt.
Longtime Trojans coach Jeff Kelly said he was “blown away” by Baum's record-breaking swim at WPIALs, a first by a Trojan. The last Derry swimmer to earn a PIAA title was Katie Bruzda in the girls 100 backstroke in 1998 and '99.
Baum (59.66) is seeded eighth in the 100 breaststroke.
The Hempfield boys team promises to add to its medal haul from WPIALs at the PIAA Class AAA championship.
The Spartans are seeded in the top eight in six events.
Senior Zack Rulli is fourth in the 100 butterfly (50.18) and sixth in the 200 freestyle (1 minute, 40.27 seconds) and leads individual qualifiers. Senior Zane Wilson ranks sixth in the 100 backstroke (50.80).
The 400 freestyle relay is third (3:07.51), and the 200 medley (1:34.51) and 200 freestyle (1:25.91) relays are fifth and sixth, respectively. Wilson, Rulli, sophomores Todd Wilson and Gavin Mayo, seniors Cole Stinebiser and Alex Hervol and junior Adam Toth compete.
“We are very excited and hope to take full advantage of our opportunities,” said Stinebiser, a Grove City recruit.
“The boys are happy we have good seeds, but we feel like we can do better,” Mayo said. “All three of our relays have a chance to get on the podium and again break our school records.”
Spartans coach Kevin Clougherty expects his team to well if it remains focused.
“Our guys do a good job (of) paying attention to themselves and not getting too wrapped up in the hoopla and pressure of a major meet,” he said.
In her first trip to states, Latrobe junior Taylor Miller is seeded eighth in the Class AAA girls 1-meter diving event with a score of 465.35. The Class AAA diving competition will be held March 26.
“She has been working hard and fine-tuning her dives to take (them) higher and cleaner on the entries,” Wildcats diving coach Trish Brownlee said.
Derry senior Allison Brownlee — Trish's daughter and a two-time PIAA diving finalist — is among top individuals in Class AA girls swimming events.
Brownlee is seeded sixth in the 100 freestyle (52.78) and eighth in the 200 freestyle (1:55.57).
Other Westmoreland County seeded individuals include Latrobe junior Rylee Jackson, Stinebiser, Mayo and sophomore Carrie Lenz; Franklin Regional seniors Morgan Birdy and Jarod Crowell and sophomores Abigail Ramey and Patrick Cavanaugh; Derry senior Danielle Jellison; and Greensburg Central Catholic senior Mikayla Bisignani.
Boys and girls relays from Franklin Regional and girls foursomes from Penn-Trafford and Derry also qualified.
Sophomore Paige Kalik and freshman Victoria Woodley of Penn-Trafford and Franklin Regional sophomore Mason Fishell made it in diving events.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.