North Allegheny grads Gonzalez, Zhang made quick impact for college teams
North Allegheny graduates Mason Gonzalez and Andrew Zhang have made smooth transitions to Division I swimming.
Gonzalez (Stanford) and Zhang (Northwestern), both freshmen, rank among their teams’ fastest performers.
Gonzalez, the reigning PIAA Class AAA champion in the boys 50-yard freestyle and 100 freestyle and WPIAL champion in the 50 freestyle who holds WPIAL records in both events, is second in the 100 freestyle (43.81 seconds), third in the 200 freestyle (1 minute, 36.04 seconds) and fifth in the 50 freestyle (20.16) for the Cardinal.
“Mason will be a major contributor in our upcoming conference dual meets, as well as contributing lots of points at the conference championship meet,” Stanford coach Ted Knapp said. “He is on track to be on our NCAA team.”
Gonzalez, who is 6-foot-4, said if he makes NCAAs, it most likely will be on a relay. He anchored the 400 freestyle relay team (2:51.96) that was second at the Texas Hall of Fame Invitational.
The Cardinal, the Pac-12 runner-up, placed seventh in the NCAA last season. They are 1-0 in the conference this season and ranked seventh in the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America Top 25 Dual Meet Poll as of Dec. 5.
Gonzalez, who plans to study biology, said college has brought more responsibilities.
“I had to put a lot more pressure on myself to make sure I was getting to practice on time, getting my assignments turned in and even getting laundry done,” he said. “I’ve had to manage my time more efficiently.”
Zhang, the WPIAL champion in the 100 backstroke last season, ranks first for Northwestern in the 50 freestyle (20.52) and 100 freestyle (44.77) and second in the 100 backstroke (48.55).
Northwestern coach Jeremy Kipp expects Zhang, who is 6-foot-3, to contribute to most relays. The Wildcats are 0-1 in the Big Ten Conference and came in ninth at the conference championship last season. “Since arriving on campus, Andrew has quickly shown his maturity and commitment to becoming great,” Kipp said. “He has all of the physical attributes necessary to be a good swimmer.
“Along with his commitment to becoming the best swimmer, Andrew really is an all-around phenomenal kid and incredibly thoughtful.”
Zhang, who plans to study computer science, is working harder. Gonzalez ended last season ranked first in the 100 freestyle (43.03) by the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association. He was part of the 200 freestyle relay (1:19.60) and 400 freestyle relay (2:53.81) teams that headed the list of the best 100 performances in the country.
Zhang was in the 400 freestyle relay. He and Gonzalez helped the Tigers to their seventh straight WPIAL title and second consecutive PIAA crown.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.
Karen Kadilak is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.