Upper St. Clair, North Allegheny swimmers shine at PIAA championship meet

| Thursday, March 13, 2014, 5:45 p.m.

LEWISBURG — Zach Buerger figured that with the history between his North Allegheny swim and diving team and Upper St. Clair, the PIAA Class AAA championships Thursday at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium couldn't help but be close.

Buerger was right.

And another layer developed in this friendly rivalry, one that almost turned into a duel between Buerger and Upper St. Clair's Ryan Dudzinski.

Both posted four top-three finishes — two firsts, a second and a third for each — though Buerger walked away with the event's outstanding swimmer award.

“We all stepped up,” said Buerger, who won the 500 freestyle Thursday. “We all swam real well. And obviously after that battle we had with USC at WPIALs, we knew it was going to be just as big of a battle here.”

North Allegheny built as large a lead as possible before Upper St. Clair's Fynn Minuth and Ryan Dudzinski rallied the Panthers back in the 400 free relay.

Dudzinski swam a 44-second anchor leg to help Upper St. Clair clock a 3:03.04.

The win gave Dudzinski two gold medals — he won Wednesday in the 100 fly — and a silver after his second-place finish in the 100 backstroke Thursday.

“Getting a gold by yourself is one thing,” Dudzinski said. “But when you're with your teammates, it means the world.”

La Salle College won the boys team title with 280 points, while North Allegheny placed second with 202. Upper St. Clair was third with 192.5.

North Allegheny's Casey Melzer and Minuth finished with four medals, two relays and two individuals.

Upper St. Clair's Alex Hardwick netted three, two relays and one individual.

North Hills' Brian Lovasik earned his second medal of the PIAA meet by finishing seventh in the 100 free in 45.57.

Chartiers Valley's Maria Lohman broke the PIAA's oldest remaining record in girls 1-meter diving by winning her second consecutive state title.

Her score of 529.80 surpassed Jennifer O'Brien's mark from 1999 that served not only as the pool record but also the PIAA mark.

“It was one of my goals to come in and dive well like I did at WPIALs, and I did that,” said Lohman, who 13 days ago won a third consecutive WPIAL title. “To get the record on top of that is even more exciting.”

Norwin's Kathryn Painter was second in the 500 free in 4:54.15. North Allegheny's Jacquelyn Du was the runner-up in the 100 backstroke behind Hershey's Meaghan Raab, who set the state record.

“I know swimming next to Meaghan definitely helped me,” said Du, whose time was 53.91.

Hampton's Katie Fernander took second — this seemed to be a theme for WPIAL girls, as it happened four times Wednesday, too — in the 100 breaststroke in 1:02.88.

“I went out there and put all my effort in the pool,” Fernander said. “It feels amazing.”

The WPIAL got its fourth second-place finish Thursday when the North Allegheny girls finished second to Hershey, the team champion with 279 points to North Allegheny's 235, in the 400 freestyle relay.

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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