Highlands' Bonnett wins third PIAA swimming gold
Bailey Bonnett knew what it felt like to ascend to the top of the podium at the PIAA Class AA swimming championships.
The Highlands senior did it in the 500 freestyle last year and in 2015. This year, she wanted to add the 200 individual medley title.
Thursday's swim at Bucknell wasn't her personal best — a 2:00.57 set at WPIALs last year — but her 2:00.80 was two seconds faster than her nearest competitor. It resulted in her third overall state title.
“I wanted to go under two minutes, but I am happy with it,” Bonnett said. “It was good for not having two swims. I have always felt smoother and more comfortable coming back later in the day.”
The heavy snowstorm that blanketed the Northeast pushed the start of the championships from Wednesday to Thursday and the final day (Class AAA) to Sunday. The diving championships, originally set to run parallel with the swimming, are March 25-26.
The normal state-championship format, with preliminary heats leading into consolation and championship finals later in the day, was replaced with a WPIAL-style format of a single swim for each individual and relay.
The top eight finishers received medals.
Bonnett goes for state title No. 4 and a sweep at the 2017 finals when she swims the 100 breaststroke Friday. Her WPIAL-title time of 1:01.61 puts her as the top seed and 52 hundredths of a second from the state record (1:01.09).
Springdale senior Kevin Kondrit accomplished one of his goals Thursday in the boys 200 freestyle. He went faster than his WPIAL-title time of 1:41.35, clocking a final-heat time of 1:41.19.
The No. 2 seed, however, wasn't able to reach his goal of a PIAA championship. He placed third behind Salisbury senior Mahlon Reihman and Lower Moreland junior Connor Killion.
“My race was OK,” Kondrit said. “Obviously, I would've like to have gotten a better place and a better time, but I had to swim my race. I couldn't control what the other guys did.”
Kondrit said he swam a better second half in the 200 free, and that gives him a boost going into Friday's 500 free. The WPIAL champion in the event is seeded second (4:36.34).
“The 500 is more of a new territory for me after swimming the 100,” he said. “I think I have more potential there to drop time. Hopefully, I can get a state title, but I want to make sure I get a best time.”
Fellow Springdale senior Collin Hurley dropped nearly two seconds from his WPIAL third-place 200 individual medley time of 1:58.21, and his personal best of 1:56.32 landed him in fourth. It was his best state finish.
Hurley also was the top WPIAL performer, edging fifth-place finisher and WPIAL champion John Wilson, a senior from Knoch, and Winchester Thurston senior E.J. Eppinger (sixth).
“I am happy with my time,” Hurley said. “I would've loved to have gone 1:56.3 at WPIALs, but I will take it now rather than never. It was a good way to end my 200 IM career in high school.”
Hurley turns his attention to his 100 breaststroke Friday. He is seeded sixth.
“I have to refocus and keep the momentum going,” he said. “I had a good breaststroke split in the IM.”
Deer Lakes freshman Renee Robson made her PIAA debut and placed 15th in the girls 50 freestyle with a time of 24.63 seconds.
The Highlands girls 200 freestyle relay of Bonnett, senior Jocelyn Gillette and freshmen Rachel Blackburn and Breea Bonnett were a second behind their fourth-place WPIAL time of 1:41.77, but they moved up a spot from the 20th seed and landed 19th.
The WPIAL also had a state champion in the girls 50 free, as Ellwood City senior Taylor Petrak took home gold with a time of 22.94, only three one-hundredths of a second shy of the state record.