ShareThis Page

Freeport's Otwell wins WPIAL gold by slimmest of margins

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 10:54 p.m.
Hannah Adamski of Plum dives into the pool to start the 2013 WPIAL Class AAA girls 50-yard freestyle on Thursday, February 28, 2013. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Freeport's Bria Otwell of Freeport wins the WPIAL Class AA girls 200-yard IM on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. (Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review)
Holly Stein of St. Joseph at the 2013 WPIAL Class AA girls 200-yard IM on Thursday, February 28, 2013. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

Bria Otwell tried her best to remain calm heading into the WPIAL Class AA swimming meet. But the Freeport sophomore knew there was a good chance she would be seeing South Fayette senior Mary Rosati over her shoulder.

“I was actually so nervous because everyone was telling me, ‘You're seeded first,' but I know you can never count anyone out,” Otwell said. “I remember her from last year, and she's such a good competitor that I love having her next to me.”

As it turned out, Otwell almost had Rosati in front of her at the most inopportune time.

Otwell and Rosati were neck-and-neck when they made the flip turn on the final lap of the 200-yard individual medley, but despite the two going back and forth over the final 25 yards, Otwell touched the wall in 2:08.54 to win her second consecutive title in the event. She is the first person to repeat in the event since Aileen Smith of Oakland Catholic won in 2008-09, but she did it by the narrowest of margins — Rosati hit the wall just 0.10 behind.

It was a tremendous comeback for Otwell, who trailed Rosati by nearly two seconds after the butterfly leg. Halfway through the race, Rosati was setting a record pace at 59.96 seconds, while Otwell was at 1:01.01 heading into the breaststroke and freestyle.

“I didn't think that I could get my hand in and finish ahead of her,” Otwell said, “and then I saw it and I was excited, and a wave of relief went over me because I was really worried.”

While Otwell was busy capturing gold, St. Joseph senior Holly Stein locked up a spot in the PIAA Class AA meet at Bucknell's Kinney Natatorium on March 13-14 with a third-place finish in 2:14.00.

Only the top five boys and top four girls finishers in WPIAL Class AA receive automatic qualifying spots in the state finals. The top three boys and girls at the WPIAL meet in Class AAA reserve slots in the state finals at Bucknell on March 15-16.

Freeport freshman Zoe Pawlak almost won her first WPIAL title in the 50 freestyle, but her time of 24.85 seconds put her in a third-place tie with Danielle Pekular of Bishop Canevin. Alexis Lopez of Blackhawk won the event in 24.68.

Another freshman, St. Joseph's Sabrina Bowman, finished second in the 100 butterfly, trailing the record pace set by three-time champion Margaret Gruber of Mars. Gruber broke her own record in the event as she finished in 53.88 seconds, well ahead of the 54.63 she won with in 2011

Bowman touched the wall in 58.73 seconds, just ahead of the 59.19 pace of Destin Groff of Shady Side Academy.

The Burrell boys' 200 freestyle relay of senior Ross Walker, sophomore Josh Wertkin, and juniors Ben Johnson and T.J. Swigart broke a 10-year-old school record with a time of 1:32.05, good for eighth place.

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.