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Connellsville swimming measures success in number of WPIAL qualifiers

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 1:26 a.m.
Connellsville will send eight swimmers to the WPIAL Class AAA championships Thursday and Friday at Pitt's Trees Pool. The Connellsville WPIAL qualifiers are (front row, from left) Rachel Barczyk, Leah Lilley, Alyson Urie and Bayle Shreve; top row, Sierra Emert, Shane Beneke, Collin Mastowski and Lauren Urie. (Jason Black | Daily Courier)

When the WPIAL Class AAA Swimming Championships are held Thursday and Friday at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool, Connellsville will be represented by eight athletes competing in 10 events.

Although none of Connellsville swimmers is seeded particularly high in any event, the fact that the amount of qualifiers doubled from 2012 represents a nice accomplishment for the program.

“It's more than we had last year, so that's an improvement,” Connellsville coach Marie Nedley said, noting that last year only four Connellsville swimmers qualified for WPIALs. “We also have two boys going, and we didn't have any last year. We just want to try to get personal bests, and if that gets us up on the podium, that's even better.”

Connellsville will take three relay teams to WPIALs. Sophomore Bayle Shreve, seniors Leah Lilley and Sierra Emert and junior Lauren Urie are seeded 25th in the 200 medley relay (2:02.61). Senior Rachel Barczyk, freshman Alyson Urie, Lilley and Emert make up the 27th-seeded 200 freestyle relay (1:49.08) and the 28th-seeded 400 freestyle relay (4:00.78).

Emert, Lilley and Barczyk competed in the freestyle relays at WPIALs last season, but Alyson Urie is new to the group. She is replacing graduate Kendra Wagner. According to Nedley, the freestyle relay teams have the ability to make the WPIALs their best showing of the season.

“I expect us to go faster, especially in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays,” Nedley said. “I expect them to move up at least in those two relays.”

In addition to their relay duties, Barczyk, Shreve and Alyson Urie each will swim in individual events. Barczyk is the 23rd seed in the 200 freestyle (2:02.09) and the 30th seed in the 100 butterfly (1:03.94). Alyson Urie has the 30th seed in the 200 individual medley (2:21.30) and the 32nd seed in the 500 freestyle (5:34.49). Shreve is seeded 39th in the 100 backstroke (1:05.45).

Senior Shane Beneke and freshman Collin Mastowski are the first Connellsville boys to compete at WPIALs in individual events since Mark Tringhese swam the 50 freestyle in 2010. Connellsville did have two male relay teams compete in 2011.

Beneke is the 40th seed in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.97), and Mastowski is seeded 29th in the 100 butterfly (58.14).

For all of the Falcons competing at WPIALs, the focus is on putting forth their best effort in what could be their last meet of the season.

“We'd all like to get better times,” Barczyk said. “That's what it is all about.”

No matter what happens in the pool, Barczyk already looks at the season as a success considering the amount of swimmers who will be representing the school.

“I know that last year, we only had four girls and no boys,” Barczyk said. “I'm excited that we get to take a bigger vehicle than a minivan.”

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