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Latrobe swimmers prove they belong with strong PIAA showing

| Sunday, March 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

LEWISBURG — Latrobe didn't win any individual titles in the PIAA Class AAA swim meet Friday and Saturday at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium.

Nor did the team capture gold medals in either of its two relays.

Wildcats coach Grey Arrigonie still couldn't have been more pleased.

Despite going against some of the best swimmers in the state, including Oakland Catholic's Leah Smith (a Virginia recruit), Christina Leander of West Chester East (Tennessee), Warwick's Emily Cameron (Georgia) and Kristen Murslack of Pine-Richland (Auburn), as well as schools with outstanding traditions such Hershey and North Allegheny, Latrobe finished fourth in the overall team standings with 120 points, four in front of Oakland Catholic.

“We had almost a perfect meet, so I couldn't be happier than that,” Arrigonie said.

“Most of them have their best times and we definitely swam better than we were seeded throughout the meet, and that was a big part of moving up ahead of some of those teams.”

Kayla Owens improved her seeding, and with her five-slot jump from her original qualifying time out of the WPIAL finals in the 100-yard breaststroke, she went from ninth overall to fourth after the morning preliminary heats and swam in the title race.

Though she dropped one slot to fifth at the wall, she finished with two individual medals —including a third in the 200 individual medley — and medals in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.

“There were a couple mistakes and things that I can improve on, but it was the pressure of the moment, and I was pretty happy with it overall,” Owens said. “I was real excited for our team placing in both of our relays because that's never happened since I've been here, and we've shown improvement over the years.”

Sophomore Monica Sowinski won the consolation race in the 200 freestyle with a time (1:51.67) that would have given her a seventh-place finish in the medal heat to a sixth-place finish in the 100 freestyle.

“It was tough winning the consolation, but I think it gave me motivation,” Sowinski said.

“I just wanted to place as high as I could. I was just happy to be in the medal heat.”

It didn't hurt that the team had veteran guidance, with senior Maddie Hoopes, a Connecticut recruit, steering the way.

Though she wasn't able to win a championship after taking the WPIAL Class AAA 100 freestyle as a freshman, she was the butterfly leg on the 200 medley relay and the second leg of the 400 freestyle relay, and she helped the team through rough spots.

“We've been training so hard for the past year, and being captain of the team, it's extremely exciting to see a team place fourth at WPIALs and fourth at states,” Hoopes said. “As a team, we're super excited.”

It bodes well that Sowinski and Owens will be coming back, which gives the Wildcats a solid foundation moving forward.

“The girls just have to have the determination follow them,” Arrigonie said.

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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