Geibel freshman makes splash
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Geibel freshman Emily Zimcosky isn't like most swimmers.
Times and places aren't her main concerns.
“I love getting into the pool,” Zimcosky said. “The ability to go out there and swim is what I love most about the sport, and I don't care about placement and I don't care about times. I just like to go out and swim.”
She also has a favorite event, the 100-yard freestyle, even though she has no logical reason for it.
“I don't know why it's my favorite event,” she said. “I just feel like it's where I excel the most.”
She'll likely get little argument from the swimmers in the pool with her for the final heat of the 100 freestyle at the WPIAL Class AA finals at Pitt's Trees Pool. Zimcosky won her first WPIAL title and did it in blowout fashion; her time of 51.85 seconds was 1.73 seconds better than second-place Mary Foltz of Eden Christian Academy.
Zimcosky also had a shot at breaking the WPIAL record in the event but came up just short. The mark of 51.66 seconds was set by Kristen Olsen of Moon in 1997.
Zimcosky also moves on to compete at the PIAA Class AA finals at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium on March 13-14. The top five boys and top four girls finishers at the WPIAL finals earn automatic bids to the state meet.
“I'm nervous, and I have to make sure that I don't let the pressure get to me because that's one of my biggest weaknesses,” Zimcosky said. “But going up there, it's going to be a big meet and it's kind of nerve-wracking.”
That was nothing compared to what her brother, John Paul Zimcosky, had to go through in his heat of the 100 freestyle. John Paul tied Elizabeth Forward senior Josh Krieg at 49.10 seconds for the fifth and final automatic state qualifying slot. The pair had to do a swim-off to decide who advanced.
Unfortunately for the Geibel junior, Krieg edged him at the end and earned the slot, but John Paul could still qualify for the state finals with an at-large bid if his time is among the top 32 in the state. The final slots will be announced early next week.
Derry's Tyler O'Barto also will have to wait and see if he qualified for states. The No. 1 seed in the 100 breaststroke heading into the meet with a qualifying time of 1:02.63, the senior finished sixth, behind Jon Hayock of Indiana and his winning time of 59.58.
Laurel Highlands senior Justin Kostelnik's seed time was more than three seconds better than the next competitor but the 100 backstroke was a lot closer.
Kostelnik's 52.46 finals time beat West Mifflin's Brad Kolesar by only 1.36 seconds, but it was still enough to win the title.
Braelyn Tracy made an impressive entrance for her high school swimming career when she pulled off a minor upset and won the WPIAL Class AA title in the 100-yard freestyle as a freshman in 2010. She closed out her final WPIAL meet with another surprise and another gold medal.
This time, the Elizabeth Forward senior sliced nearly 17 seconds off her qualifying time in the 500 freestyle and pulled off a career-best 4:59.37 to win her fourth career title and second of the meet. Tracy also won the 200 freestyle on the first day of the WPIAL Class AA finals and is the first person since to win both events in the same year since Kara Kaulius of West Allegheny in 2011.
She finished with a time of 4:59.43, which beat Kaulius by only 1.29 seconds in the longest event of the meet.
“I never thought I would go under five minutes,” Tracy said. “The pool was fast and I'm feeling good, and I've never felt this good before. I also think it was Kara, too, pushing me.”
Tracy became the fourth different swimmer to win the 500 freestyle in the last four years, joining Ambridge's Lindsay Vrooman (2010), Kaulius and defending champion Bria Otwell of Freeport who finished third.
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.
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