Latrobe girls win WCCA meet with record-breaking performances

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Latrobe junior Kayla Owens didn't have much time to enjoy her record-setting performance at the Westmoreland County Coaches' Association girls swimming championship last week at Derry.

“It's back to practice,” said Owens, who shattered a meet record in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:07.19. “I have to keep working hard if I want to win at WPIALs.”

After finishing second a year ago, Owens expects to be a favorite in the 100 breaststroke at the WPIAL Class AAA championship, to be held Feb. 28 and March 1 at the Pitt's Trees Pool.

Owens also was WPIAL runner-up in the 200 individual medley a year ago.

One of three Latrobe swimmers who set meet records, Owens helped lead the Wildcats to the Class AAA team title at the WCCA championship for the fifth time in seven years.

Latrobe scored 265 points. Franklin Regional, the two-time defending champion, was second with 248.

The victory gave the Wildcats a large dose of confidence, said Latrobe coach Grey Arrigonie, who expects his team and Franklin Regional to be among the favorites at the WPIAL championship.

“Swimming against Franklin Regional shows the girls what they have to work for,” Latrobe assistant coach DeOnna Kelly said. “They have a very strong team.”

Junior Gina DeFrancesco, who set a meet record in the 500 freestyle (5:12.99), said the county championship is good preparation for the WPIAL meet.

“It gets us used to the atmosphere we will be facing,” she said.

“It's probably the fastest meet we have so far,” said senior Maddie Hoopes, who finished first in the 100 backstroke and second in the 50 freestyle.

After setting a meet record in the 200 freestyle (1:54.27), sophomore Monica Sowinski also plans to work hard as she approaches the WPIAL championship.

“We know we have to keep at it,” she said.

Held since the 1960s, the county meet was moved from January to February in 2010 to be closer to the WPIAL championships, said county championship coordinator Donna Harshell.

“It's a great litmus for determining where athletes are in their preparations for the WPIAL championships,” said Derry coach Jeff Kelly, whose team won the county Class AA girls title this year, with help from divers Morgan Elrick and Rachel Trice, who finished 1-2 with scores of 333.10 and 312.25, respectively.

The meet has grown since Derry became host in 2006, Harshell said.

In 2005, there were 212 athletes from 11 schools.

This year, 303 swimmers and divers competed.

Based on entries, nearly 69 percent of the 272 swimmers who competed in individual events this year improved their times, Harshell said.

Among relays, there was a 61 percent improvement.

Jeff Kelly said the meet promotes friendly competition.

“Teams (that) are victorious will tell you this is a pretty sweet title to hold,” he said. “The students take it very seriously and are extremely competitive.

“What I have noticed (are) the kids who go to WPIALs and cheer for their county friends.”

“It's like family,” Harshell said. “It's one of the biggest meets of the season amongst tight-knit communities.

“Some of the athletes have competed against each other from swimming with local clubs through middle school.”

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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