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North Allegheny girls again favored to win WPIAL swimming championship

| Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, 9:33 p.m.
North Allegheny's Jacquelyn Du swims during the girls' Class AAA 100-yard backstroke at the WPIAL championships on Friday, March 1, 2013, at Pitt's Trees Pool. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
North Allegheny's Zachary Buerger swims during the boys' Class AAA 500-yard freestyle at the WPIAL championships on Friday, March 1, 2013, at Pitt's Trees Pool. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

Jacquelyn Du wants the North Allegheny girls swimming and diving team to focus on its own times during Thursday and Friday's WPIAL championships.

With as dominant as the Tigers have been recently at Pitt's Trees Pool, focusing on individual improvement has been about all opposing teams have been able to do, too.

North Allegheny has won the past five WPIAL titles, last year's by 160 points (417-257) over second-place Oakland Catholic.

“I'm not overly concerned with how everyone else is doing,” Du said. “Especially with our team, our goals are to beat our own best times. I think that's what we're going to try and do.”

Du won WPIAL gold last year in the 200-yard medley relay, the 100 backstroke and the 400 freestyle relay. All three are seeded first again.

Another North Allegheny junior, Morgan Soulia, will look to help defend relay titles in the 200 and 400 free, as well as her individual championship in the 100 free.

Mt. Lebanon senior Katie Ford won the 50 free a season ago and enters as the top seed in the 100 free, looking to unseat Soulia.

The North Allegheny boys should face considerably more competition. The Tigers topped Upper St. Clair, 327-269.5, last winter but the Panthers won it all in 2011, Alex Hardwick's freshman season.

Hardwick, who swam the lead leg on Upper St. Clair's title-clinching 400 freestyle relay team as a freshman, returns looking to defend titles in the 100 and 200 freestyle.

Upper St. Clair junior Ryan Dudzinski is seeded first in two events — 100 fly and 100 backstroke — and both swim on Upper St. Clair's top-seeded 400 freestyle team, giving the Panthers a legitimate shot at knocking off North Allegheny.

“It's a friendly rivalry,” Hardwick said, “but it's going to be very heated (this) week when it's taken into the pool.”

North Allegheny is led by Zach Buerger, who is the No. 1 seed in the 200 IM and also swims on the Tigers' top-seeded 200 medley and 200 free relays. Tigers senior Sam Rutan is back to defend his title in the 500 free.

In Class AA, Chartiers Valley's Drew Damich could win three WPIAL titles a year after winning two (200 and 500 free); Damich anchors the Colts' top-seeded 200 free relay team.

“Anything can happen at WPIALs because a lot of people drop time, a lot of people add time,” Damich said. “You don't really know what anyone's going to do until it's over.”

Senior Christopher Giorgiadis from Mars, the defending champion in the 200 IM, again is the top seed. He has the fastest time in the 100 breast and swims on Mars' 400 freestyle relay team.

Indiana toppled Mars for the 2013 Class AA boys championship, 203-172, grabbing its third consecutive WPIAL title.

The Little Indians graduated WPIAL champions Jon Haycock (200 medley relay, 100 breast) and Daniel Peng (200 medley relay), but returning brothers Grant and Logan Hess had three top-eight finishes apiece.

One-hundred freestyle champion Emily Zimcosky, a sophomore from Geibel, returns and will look to add the 50 title as the event's top seed among Class AA girls.

“You try not to think about it,” Zimcosky said. “You go to every meet expecting everybody to be at their best.”

South Fayette won the Class AA girls title last season but was hit hard by graduation.

Highlands freshman Bailey Bonnett is the top seed in the 200 IM, an event Freeport junior Bria Otwell won last year. Bonnet also is the top seed in the 500 free.

Swimming sessions run 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (AAA) and 3-5:30 p.m. (AA) Thursday and Friday. Diving championships were held last week.

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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