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Geibel freshman, Latrobe pair settle for second at WPIAL swimming championships

Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review - Kaitlyn Ruffing of Franklin Regional smilies after finishing the 2013 WPIAL Class AAA girls 50-yard freestyle on Thursday, February 28, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review</em></div>Kaitlyn Ruffing of Franklin Regional smilies after finishing the 2013 WPIAL Class AAA girls 50-yard freestyle on Thursday, February 28, 2013.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review - Latrobe's Kayla Owens in the WPIAL Class AAA girls 200 IM on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review</em></div>Latrobe's Kayla Owens in the WPIAL Class AAA girls 200 IM on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013.

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By Keith Barnes
Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 9:42 p.m.
 

Geibel freshman Emily Zimcosky was more than a little jittery when she stepped onto the block for the final heat of 200-yard freestyle at the WPIAL Class AA finals.

Not only was she one of only two freshmen in the race, she came into the meet as the top seed with the fastest qualifying time during the regular season.

“I get nervous especially being around all the seniors and being the young one,” Zimcosky said. “But I've been in so many races in my life that I've been in front, and I've come from behind, and I'm used to both.”

This time, she had to do both in one race.

Zimcosky moved into the lead on the last lap but could not hold it as Elizabeth Forward senior Braelyn Tracy swam a blistering 28.44-second final 50 yards to win her second consecutive title in the event. Tracy finished with a personal-best time of 1:51.94, and Zimcosky came in second at 1:52.69 and barely edged third-place Kara Kaulius of West Allegheny by 0.03 seconds.

“My goal was just to stick with Braelyn,” Zimcosky said. “I've swam with her all my life, and she's a phenomenal swimmer, and I knew she would have a phenomenal swim.”

Even though she was the defending champion, Tracy came into the race seeded fourth with a qualifying time of 1:58.27, well below the 1:53.30 she had in the 2012 finals. She also was in fourth place after the first 100 yards behind Kaulius, Zimcosky and Morgan Fink of South Fayette before posting a 57.38-second final 100 to lock it up.

“I did my (100) turn, and I was underwater and I knew that I was a little behind everybody else, so I thought, ‘Oh my God, I've got to pick it up.' So on the last 50, I think I only took like two breaths,” Tracy said. “As soon as I hit the wall, I saw that no one had hit the wall yet, and I just screamed. I couldn't hold it in.”

Zimcosky will have another opportunity to capture her first WPIAL championship Friday when she competes in her favorite event, the 100 freestyle. Like the 200 freestyle, she will enter the race as the top seed and as one of only two freshmen in the race.

“I think I'll be fine because I know now that all my hard work has paid off,” Zimcosky said. “I am so ready.”

With her finish, Zimcosky also secured a spot in the PIAA Class AA meet, which will be held March 13-14 at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium. She will be joined by her brother, John Paul, who finished fourth in the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.18.

The top five boys and top four girls finishers in Class AA and the top three in Class AAA automatically qualify for the state meet. The Class AAA portion of the state finals also will be at Bucknell on March 15-16.

Latrobe's Monica Sowinski also finished second in the 200 freestyle in Class AAA, touching the wall in 1:51.57. Oakland Catholic senior Leah Smith, a Virginia recruit, broke her WPIAL record in the event with a time of 1:45.81.

She wasn't the only Latrobe swimmer to draw a hot competitor.

Pine-Richland senior Kristen Murslack joined Sarah Dunleavy (2005-08) of Bethel Park as the only four-time winners in the 200 individual medley in the last 15 years. Murslack finished with an all-American time of 2:01.99 — more than three seconds faster than Kayla Owens of Latrobe (2:05.09) — and just missed the WPIAL record of 2:01.92 set by Kaitlynn Orstein of Mt. Lebanon in 2004.

“It definitely means a lot,” Murslack said. “It shows me how much I've grown over the last four years and how much I improved, and this was just outstanding for this to happen my senior year.”

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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