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North Allegheny ends Hawks reign

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Sunday, Feb. 25, 2001

Jerry Koller watched a video this past week of the final relay at the WPIAL swimming championships when he was a sophomore at Bethel Park in 1994.

Koller anchored the 400-yard freestyle relay which was the deciding event to give Bethel Park its 14th consecutive WPIAL Class AAA swimming championship.

Koller touched out a swimmer from North Allegheny for the relay victory and the team championship.

On Saturday, all Koller could do was watch the 400 freestyle relay.

North Allegheny swam away with the crown, one that Bethel Park had won the past 20 times. North Allegheny defeated Bethel Park, 258.50-235.00, to win the WPIAL Class AAA boys swimming championship at Pitt's Trees Pool.

'It really hasn't hit me,' said Koller, who coaches the Bethel Park boys. 'It was emotional for me to watch that tape. There were so many times North Allegheny almost pulled it out. North Allegheny finally got it. But winning that relay was my proudest moment as a swimmer.'

Koller said his swimmers were well aware of the pressure to win, and what they needed to do to keep the streak alive, but there wasn't much the Black Hawks could do yesterday. North Allegheny was too deep, and the Tigers swam fast times.

'I can't really be ashamed, because we did our best,' Bethel Park senior Mike Hand said. 'Everyone said that the streak was not going to last forever, and I know that, but I just didn't want it to end my senior year. There are a million things that could have been done differently, or swam differently, that could have ended us with a victory, but I think they just had more depth.'

That depth was evident in the 100 breaststroke where North Allegheny had four swimmers place in the top 10. Koller knew North Allegheny had more depth because North Allegheny defeated Bethel Park in a dual meet earlier this season.

'They have been winning this for 20 years, and I have been trying to beat them for four years,' said North Allegheny senior Kevin VanBuskirk, who won the 500- and 200- freestyle and was on the winning 400 freestyle relay and 200 freestyle relay teams. 'It feels pretty good. This was one of my goals at the beginning of the year.'

Goal accomplished.

'It feels wonderful,' said North Allegheny coach Corky Semler, who won the WPIAL title in 1980. 'I am honored to coach this team. Bethel Park has always been a bunch of young men of class individuals with good sportsmanship. They did not lose this meet. They just ran into a meat grinder ... we were good this weekend.'

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