A-K Valley swimmers punch state tickets

| Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, 9:33 p.m.

Pitted against numerous older and more experienced athletes from across the district, it is quite difficult for freshmen swimmers to advance out of the WPIAL meet and onto the PIAA championships.

But that's what two Knoch swimmers were able to achieve Friday at the WPIAL Class AA championships at Pitt's Trees Pool.

After Brooke Zukowski claimed first place honors in the 100-yard breaststroke with a winning time of 1:05.05, fellow Knights ninth grader John Wilson followed that with a fifth-place finish of 1:01.94 in the boys event.

While Zukowski already had earned a spot in the state meet March 12-15 at Bucknell's Kinney Natatorium after finishing second in the 200-yard individual medley Thursday, doing so in the same event as her teammate made it that much more special Friday.

“It's definitely exciting,” she said. “I swim with John a lot. We practice every day together.”

“It's really cool,” added Wilson, a home school student. “Just awesome that two freshmen can make it to states, and Brooke got first, so that's pretty awesome.”

Also contributing to the Knoch girls' 10th-place finish (101 points) was sophomore Abigail Jones. She claimed sixth place in the girls 500-yard freestyle, clocking in at 5:20.16.

A day after winning the Class AA girls 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 6.12 seconds), Highlands freshman Bailey Bonnett was another freshman who paved her way to states in an event Friday after taking gold in the girls 500-yard freestyle (5:00.24). Freeport's Bria Otwell was second (5:02.89).

For Bonnett, it was important to block out any distractions to try and repeat her performance from Thursday with another personal best.

“I just tried to let that all go to keep my mindset clear and normal and then just having the same swim as yesterday.”

St. Joseph was led by sophomore Sabrina Bowman's second-place finish in the Class AA girls 100-yard backstroke (58.08), and Springdale received a fourth-place finish from sophomore Kevin Kondrit in the boys Class AA 100 backstroke (56.98). His teammate, freshman Collin Hurley, finished sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:02.17).

The Burrell boys 400-yard freestyle relay team composed of seniors Thomas Swigart, Derek Mrvan, Benjamin Johnson and Joshua Wertkin finished eighth in Class AA (3:25.98).

Valley was paced by senior Cody Schrecengost in the 100-yard freestyle (49.13). Schrecengost broke a 43-year old school record in the 50 freestyle a day earlier, clocking in at 22.44.

The top three finishers from Class AAA advance to the PIAA meet, and the top four girls and the top five boys seeds in Class AA advance.

Friday's early session featured plenty of North Allegheny dominance. The boys held off Upper St. Clair, 373.5-364, while the girls cruised with 471 points. The afternoon portion of the event saw Mars claim the boys crown with 233 points, and West Allegheny win girls with 227.

Five WPIAL records went down in the Class AAA portion, bringing the two-day total to 11 over 22 events.

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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