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Elizabeth Forward's Tracy captures 4th WPIAL swimming title

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 6:12 p.m.
Elizabeth Forward's Braelyn Tracy swims during her victory in the girls' Class AA 500-yard freestyle at the WPIAL championships on Friday, March 1, 2013, at Pitt's Trees Pool. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Brad Kolesar of West Mifflin High School swims during the boys' Class AA 100-yard backstroke at the WPIAL championships on Friday, March 1, 2013, at Pitt's Trees Pool. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

Braelyn Tracy made an impressive entrance for her high school swimming career when she won the WPIAL Class AA title in the 100-yard freestyle as a freshman.

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-yard 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 at Pitt's Trees Pool 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.

“I know it's just Double-A WPIALs, but it's just so exciting because everyone is here,” Tracy said. “It's just such a great experience having everybody here.”

Tracy qualified for the PIAA Class AA finals, March 13-14 at Bucknell's Kinney Natatorium.

The top five boys finishers and top four girls receive automatic bids to the state meet.

Her teammate, Josh Krieg, had a more difficult path to the state finals.

He finished his heat in the 100 freestyle tied for fifth with Geibel junior John Paul Zimcosky at 49.10 seconds.

They competed in a swim-off to decide who automatically advanced to the PIAA meet.

Krieg swam a 48.78 to edge Zimcosky by 0.08 seconds and earn the slot.

But Zimcosky 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.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” Krieg said. “I asked J.P. where he finished, and he told me and I said, ‘Me too.' Then one of my teammates told me we had to have a swim-off, but you do what you have to do.”

His fifth-place finish helped the Elizabeth Forward boys to a third-place overall finish in the team standings. The Warriors had 150 points, 53 behind first-place Indiana and 22 behind Mars.

“The boys were incredible and did well beyond expectation,” Elizabeth Forward coach Tammy Blackwood said. “They're a strong group that has been together since they were young, and each year they've gotten progressively better.”

West Mifflin's Brad Kolesar knew he had to make up some time if he was to get past Laurel Highlands senior Justin Kostelnik in the 100 backstroke.

Kostelnik came into the event with a solid qualifying time of 52.89 seconds.

Kolesar shaved 2.7 seconds off his qualifying time but still finished second by 1.36 seconds.

Kostelnik finished in 52.46 seconds.

“Justin was three seconds ahead of us on the seed, and he deserved that,” Kolesar said. “It's just really hard to tell with the backstroke where you're at and you just turn around and see what you got.”

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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