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St. Joseph, Kittanning swimmers qualify for PIAA meet

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 8:18 p.m.
St. Joseph's Holly Stein swims the Class AA 100-yard breaststroke at the WPIAL championships Friday, March 1, 2013, at Pitt's Trees Pool. (Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review)
Freeport's Bria Otwell swims during the girls Class AA 500-yard freestyle at the WPIAL championships Friday, March 1, 2013, at Pitt's Trees Pool. (Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review)
Plum's Luke Frederick swims during the boys' 100-yard breaststroke at the WPIAL championships on Friday, March 1, 2013, at Pitt's Trees Pool. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

St. Joseph senior Holly Stein didn't close out the WPIAL Class AA meet at Pitt's Trees Pool with her first title in the 100-yard breaststroke, but she had no complaints about her performance in the two-day event.

Nor with the way she ended things.

In her final event of the meet, Stein led for most of the race, but faded in the last 25 yards and lost by a handbreadth to Morgan Fink of South Fayette. Stein finished with a time of 1:05.52, nearly four seconds better than her qualifying time of 1:09.39, but ended up 0.51 seconds behind the two-time champion.

“It was a little tough seeing second place, but at the same time, my time was so much faster than I thought it would be,” Stein said. “I'm very happy with it, and I was very happy with my meet.”

Stein led by 0.76 seconds after the first 50 yards and was still holding onto a slim lead when she went to the wall for her third turn. But she and Fink ended up going back and forth until Fink touched the wall in 1:05.01.

“I gave it 100 percent,” Stein said. “I don't think (I went out too fast) because I think that 100 should be all out. I don't think you should take anything off on the first 50.”

Kittanning junior Morgan Joseph couldn't afford to take anything off in the 100 backstroke, especially considering she had to get into the pool against two-time defending champion and WPIAL-record holder Margaret Gruber of Mars.

Joseph finished third with a time of 59.56 and dropped more than two seconds off her qualifying time, but she was well behind Gruber, who broke her own WPIAL record with an all-American time of 54.51.

Despite the finishes, Stein and Joseph qualified for the PIAA Class AA finals slated for March 13-14 at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium. The top five boys finishers and the top four girls at the WPIAL meet receive automatic slots.

Freeport sophomore Bria Otwell already locked up a state finals appearance on the first day of the two-day meet when she won the 200 individual medley.

But she had an opportunity for her second gold medal as the reigning gold medalist in the 500 freestyle.

Things didn't go exactly as planned, however, as she finished third to Elizabeth Forward senior Braelyn Tracy.

Otwell, who came in with a qualifying time of 5:16.57, touched the wall in 5:04.36, while Tracy set a personal best time of 4:59.43 to become the event's fourth different winner in four years.

“I haven't really been having the best meet and there are a lot of factors going in because I'm sick and there were other things,” Otwell said. “The way those girls were swimming, I couldn't have asked for better than third.”

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

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