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Latrobe, Derry swimmers, divers set for PIAA championship meet

| Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 4:19 p.m.
Derry's Morgan Elrick dives during the Westmoreland County Coaches Association diving meet on Jan. 31, 2014 at Derry Area High School.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Derry's Morgan Elrick dives during the Westmoreland County Coaches Association diving meet on Jan. 31, 2014 at Derry Area High School.

The Latrobe girls swimming team expects strong relays to pay off at the PIAA Class AAA championship meet Wednesday and Thursday at Bucknell University.

The Wildcats are seeded third in the 200 and 400-yard freestyle relays on PIAA final psych sheets with marks of 1 minute, 36.46 seconds and 3:28.91, respectively.

Senior Kayla Owens, senior Gina DeFrancesco, sophomore Megan Douds and junior Monica Sowinski swim in both relays.

Sowinski, Owens and DeFrancesco also expect to be among top individuals. Sowinski, the WPIAL champion, is favored in the 200 freestyle (1:50.45). In the 100 freestyle, in which she was WPIAL runner-up, she is seeded fourth (51.09 seconds).

Owens, the WPIAL runner-up in both, is seeded fifth in the 100 butterfly (56.05) and third in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.23).

DeFrancesco is seeded 20th in the 200 freestyle (1:54.61) and 24th in the 500 freestyle (5:08.35).

Sowinski and Owens, as well as both relays, set school records at the WPIAL championship last month at Pitt's Trees Pool.

Only partially tapered, swimmers expect to go much faster at the PIAA meet, coach Grey Arrigonie said.

“WPIALs was a great warm-up,” Arrigonie said.

Besides resting, Sowinski is seeking advantages in other ways.

“I've been looking at my splits to see where in races I took out too fast or not fast enough,” Sowinski said. “I'm trying to determine whether I should bring 50 (yards) home faster or slower.”

Seeded 21st in the 100 butterfly (51.86), senior John Jankowski will represent Latrobe at the PIAA boys championship.

Relays also are expected to help Derry at the PIAA Class AA girls championship meet Friday and Saturday at Bucknell.

The Trojans are seeded ninth in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays with marks of 1:40.79 and 3:39.96, respectively.

Juniors Taylor Byers and Chelsea Dominick and freshmen Allison Brownlee and Danielle Jellison are on both teams.

Seeded seventh in 1-meter diving and 16th in the 100 freestyle (53.86), Brownlee also will compete individually.

Swimming coach Jeff Kelly said he and diving coach Trish Ney Brownlee — Allison's mother — coordinate practice schedules.

“(Brownlee) is a unique kid in that she has accomplished so much in two different areas,” Kelly said.

“I'll be busy,” said Brownlee, 15.

Sophomore Morgan Elrick, who is seeded ninth, also will compete in 1-meter diving.

Byers qualified in the 100 butterfly (1:00.33).

Senior Dustin McCallen, freshman Zach Baum, sophomore Evan Gruss and senior Andrew Downey are seeded 18th in the 200 freestyle relay (1:32.30) at the PIAA boys championship.

McCallen also will swim individually in the 50 freestyle (22.56).

In qualifying for state competition, boys and girls swimmers all broke school records, Kelly said.

Kelly was surprised freshmen did so well.

“I never expected Danielle to break a record, or Zach to come along as fast as he did,” Kelly said.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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