TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

More confident Otwell to defend WPIAL swim titles

Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch - Freeport sophomore Bria Otwell completes the backstroke during swim practice at Shady Side Academy on Monday February 25, 2013. Otwell is the WPIAL Class AA defending champion in the 200-yard individual medley and the 500 freestyle event.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Erica Hilliard  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Freeport sophomore Bria Otwell completes the backstroke during swim practice at Shady Side Academy on Monday February 25, 2013. Otwell is the WPIAL Class AA defending champion in the 200-yard individual medley and the 500 freestyle event.
Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch - Freeport sophomore Bria Otwell completes the backstroke during swim practice at Shady Side Academy on Monday February 25, 2013. Otwell is the defending WPIAL Class AA champion in the 200-yard individual medley and the 500 freestyle.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Erica Hilliard  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Freeport sophomore Bria Otwell completes the backstroke during swim practice at Shady Side Academy on Monday February 25, 2013. Otwell is the defending WPIAL Class AA champion in the 200-yard individual medley and the 500 freestyle.
- Kittanning's Morgan Joseph practices the butterfly stroke at the Richard G. Snyder YMCA Campus on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. Joseph enters the 2013 WPIAL Class AA championships with the fifth fastest time in the 100-yard butterfly event as well as the 100 backstroke.
Kittanning's Morgan Joseph practices the butterfly stroke at the Richard G. Snyder YMCA Campus on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. Joseph enters the 2013 WPIAL Class AA championships with the fifth fastest time in the 100-yard butterfly event as well as the 100 backstroke.

TribLIVE Sports Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

wpial swim shampionship qualifiers

The top four finishers in each WPIAL Class AA girls event automatically advance to the PIAA championship meet, which are March 13-16 at Bucknell University. Additional participants can qualify if their times rank high enough in the state.

Apollo-Ridge: Samantha Wargo (200 freestyle).

Freeport: Rebecca Dudek (100 freestyle, 200 freestyle), Bria Otwell (200 individual medley, 500 freestyle), Zoe Pawlak (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle), 200 freestyle girls relay, 400 freestyle girls relay, 200 medley girls relay.

Kittanning: Morgan Joseph (100 butterfly, 100 backstroke).

Top high school sports

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 1:11 a.m.
 

Say goodbye to “Brett” and hello to Bria the beast.

As a freshman last season, Freeport's Bria Otwell used an alter ego to harness her fiery, competitive side at swim meets.

A year older and more experienced, she no longer needs “Brett” to channel the intensity that she'll need to her defend two WPIAL Class AA titles.

Otwell is in position to repeat as the winner of the 200-yard individual medley and the 500 freestyle at the WPIAL swimming championships, which begin Thursday and continue Friday at the Pitt's Trees Pool.

She enters the competition with the fastest-qualifying time in the 200 IM, the fifth-fastest mark in the 500 and a strong mind.

“I don't psych myself out anymore,” Otwell said.

“Last year, I psyched myself out, and I had to create Brett to deal with it. … She's not an alter ego anymore — more of just a mentality. I can find it easier.”

So much in Otwell's life changed in the past 12 months. Home-schooled as a freshman, she enrolled at Freeport for her sophomore year. Her social life bloomed.

Freeport fielded a full swim team, which only helped expand Otwell's social circle.

“I don't feel as caged, like I did last year,” Otwell said. “I don't feel as much stress and anxiety. I think my friends have really helped with that.”

More Yellowjackets are around this season to share in the excitement. A year ago, Freeport had just one other individual qualifier, then-sophomore Rebecca Dudek, and two relay teams, the 200 medley and the 400 freestyle.

This winter Dudek is back, there's an additional relay (the 200 freestyle team), and Otwell's longtime friend, freshman Zoe Pawlak, is in the mix.

Pawlak, a standout on Freeport's volleyball team, started swimming with Otwell when both were around 5 years old. But Pawlak gave up the sport when she began to devote serious time to volleyball two years ago.

Back into swimming, but “not really seriously back into it,” Pawlak is a medal contender in the 50 and 100 freestyle. She has the second-fastest 50 time (25.23) and the eighth-best mark (55.97) in the 100.

“It was a sport that I was really serious about when I was younger, but it's kind of become more of a hobby,” Pawlak said.

Otwell considers her friend's comeback tour nothing short of amazing. The sophomore was particularly stunned when Pawlak broke her 100 butterfly record fairly early in the season.

“Zoe has the racer mentality to a ‘T,' ” Otwell said. “She came back and killed it.”

While Freeport has several swimmers who might end up on the podium, Kittanning's only hope of a medalist rests with MoJo.

Junior Morgan Joseph, the Wildcats' lone representative for a second straight season, has the fifth-best qualifying time in both the 100 backstroke (1:01.86) and 100 butterfly (1:01.97).

“I know I can go a lot faster than my seed times,” said Joseph, who noted that she had better marks in non-high school meets this year. “I have equal faith in both. But backstroke is my event; I prefer back.”

Bothered by nerves at the WPIAL championships last season, Joseph placed 11th in the butterfly and seventh in the backstroke.

She believes she'll remain more collected this time. And she'll feel stronger, too — Joseph began to taper her training two weeks ahead of the WPIAL meet, a reaction to the way her body responded after a one-week taper last year.

“A little bit of nerves is always good, but I'm not too nervous,” Joseph said. “I'm confident in my training.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. 4 ejections, benches-clearing scrum mark Pirates’ win over Reds
  2. McKeesport prepares for Relay For Life
  3. New traffic lights to be installed near McKeesport’s Jerome Bridge
  4. Steelers’ Harrison awaits go-ahead from Tomlin before practicing
  5. Zimbabwe alleges Murrysville doctor illegally killed lion
  6. Inaugural Geibel STEM camp gives pupils interactive, fun science experience
  7. Pirates notebook: Burnett says ‘surgery is not an option’
  8. Pa. breeding ground for corruption, experts say
  9. Pittsburgh airport improvements noted as CEO tries to expand activity
  10. Inside the Steelers: Roethlisberger strong in goal-line drills
  11. 2 teens drown in Lawrence County creek