Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park swim to AAA titles
The team winners at the WPIAL swimming championships Friday at Pitt's Trees Pool featured a combination of the old and the new.
In Class AAA, Mt. Lebanon captured its first boys title since 1971, and the Bethel Park girls won their first title since 2000.
The Shady Side Academy boys won a fourth consecutive crown in Class AA, and Oakland Catholic earned its sixth consecutive girls championship.
Mt. Lebanon's victory came down to the final event of the two-day meet -- the 400-yard freestyle relay. The Blue Devils came from two laps behind to win in 3 minutes, 14.40 seconds. Senior Dan Eckel anchored the relay team that included Gunnar Aasen, Dan Robinson and Dan Quirk.
"Oh, my god," said Eckel, who will swim at Princeton next year. "That was storybook. I will never forget it. To do this in my final WPIAL meet of my high school career means so much. I can't say what I am feeling right now."
Mt. Lebanon edged two-time defending champion Central Catholic, 183-179.
"I believe this is the beginning," Mt. Lebanon coach Don Wagner said. "You have success when, year after year, you have swimmers who trust, believe and are committed to what you are doing, and that is what we have here. I only have nine (male) swimmers, but they come to work ready every day."
Mt. Lebanon won two relay races and two individual, events and the Bethel Park girls took first in two individual events and a relay.
"Each one means a lot more, because I most likely will only coach for seven more years," said 27-year Bethel Park coach Bill Kennedy, who won titles in 1998, 1999 and 2000. "This team did everything I asked. They wanted it. I have been doing this a long time and know how hard you have to work to win a WPIAL title. Plus, the level of coaching here is so good. This is truly an unselfish team."
Evidence of that was Chelsey Bower, who gave up swimming the 100 freestyle to do three relay events.
"I was willing to do what the team needed me to do," Bower said. "I would do anything for this team."
Bethel Park was challenged by a strong Seneca Valley team, but finished with 220.50 points to 190 for Seneca Valley. The biggest margin of the meet came from the Shady Side Academy boys, who won by 89 points, 214-125, against Laurel Highlands.
"This never gets old," Shady Side Academy coach John Landreth said. "The tradition of success has been created by the swimmers who have come before these swimmers, and these swimmers want to continue that tradition."
Shady Side Academy senior Tyler Scheid, a Yale recruit, was surprised by the margin of victory.
"I had some faith but not that we would win by this much," said Scheid, who set a record in the 100 butterfly, won the 100 freestyle and was part of two gold-medal relay teams. "To win four years in a row and be part of all four is awesome."
The tradition continues at Oakland Catholic. Coach Alisa Scioscia said her swimmers are aware of the program's history. Dietrich set a record in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:03.35.
"I was excited to swim (yesterday)," said Dietrich. "I got my national cut, too. As a team, we have built a tradition as OC is the best. We may not win every event, but we have swimmers who get us points."
The top four finishers in each event in Class AA and the top three in Class AAA qualify for the PIAA championships March 16-19 at Bucknell University. The rest of the times will be put into a database and the next 16 in individual events and the next eight relay events from across the state will advance.