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Hempfield, Greensburg Salem swim teams use county meet to prepare for WPIAL championships

Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Hempfield Area's Jud Shiffler swims at the Westmoreland County Coaches' Association Swimming and Diving Championship on February 2, 2013 at Derry Area High School in Derry Township.

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By Karen Kadilak
Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Greensburg Salem senior Dan Yu has much work ahead of him after tying for second place in the 50-yard freestyle at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association boys championship Saturday at Derry.

“I was sick and missed a week of practice,” he said. “I have a lot of ground to make up.

“I'll ramp up the intensity and will be swimming faster.”

After finishing third a year ago, Yu is optimistic about winning the 50 freestyle at the WPIAL Class AA championship, to be held Feb. 28 and March 1 at Pitt's Trees Pool.

“That's the goal,” he said.

Hempfield junior Amanda Kedzierski is seeking improvement after finishing third in the 100 breaststroke at the county girls meet.

“Amanda misjudged the tempo of her stroke,” Hempfield coach Kevin Clougherty said. “We'll work her very hard (so she improves) her finish as she tires.”

Clougherty expects Kedzierski to be among the top four in the 100 breaststroke at the WPIAL Class AAA championship.

Junior Brett Gwynn, who placed second at the county meet, is showing vast improvement in the 100 butterfly, Clougherty said.

“We look for him to be in the top six at WPIALs and to swim at (the state championship),” Clougherty said.

Gwynn shares his coach's optimism.

“I'm working hard on dropping a lot of time,” he said.

Clougherty also is happy with the way sophomore Judson Shiffler, the county champion in the 200 freestyle, has performed.

Coaches consider the county meet an ideal way to prepare for the WPIAL championships.

“It's very important as a tune-up and a way to judge where you are,” Clougherty said.

“It's a good gauge,” agreed Greensburg Salem's Zack Krejdovsky.

Held since the 1960s, the meet has grown since Derry became host in 2006, meet coordinator Donna Harshell said.

In 2005, 212 athletes from 11 schools competed.

This year, there were 303 swimmers and divers from 17 schools.

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

Relays improved by nearly 61 percent.

“Teams (that) are victorious will tell you this is a pretty sweet title to hold,” said Derry coach Jeff Kelly, whose girls squad was Class AA champion this year. “The students take it very seriously and are extremely competitive.

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

Harshell said the meet has a family-like atmosphere.

“It's one of the biggest meets of the season amongst tight-knit communities,” she said. “Some of the athletes have competed against each other from swimming with local clubs through middle school.”

“I enjoyed being with all my friends,” Hempfield junior Alaina Geer said.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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