Brinkhoff, Hardwick, Dudzinski winners in AAA swimming finals
While Erik Brinkhoff defended his title as the district’s top sprinter, Alex Hardwick and Ryan Dudzinski captured their initial individual gold medals on the first day of competition in the WPIAL Class AAA boys’ swimming championships. The finals conclude Friday, March 1 at the University of Pittsburgh’s Trees Pool.
Anxiety brought out the best in Brinkhoff as the Bethel Park senior claimed his second straight championship in the 50-yard freestyle. He slammed into the walk in 20.94 seconds, a scant .15 off the district record of 20.79 set by Mike Demos in 1999. The mark was also good enough for All-America consideration.
“I was real nervous,” admitted Brinkhoff, “because of being the defending champion and because I wanted to have a best swim being as it was my last year and all.
“It’s really exciting,” he continued, “because I wanted to break 21. The goal was to break 21 so when I go to states in a couple of weeks I will have the mind set that I can do it again. And, while I’m there I hope to win the state title.”
Brinkhoff was so thrilled with his triumph that he did not stop there. He anchored Bethel Park’s 200 freestyle relay to victory as well. The win closed out the first day of competition on a positive not for both Brinkhoff and the Black Hawks as they head into the second day of competition.
While Brinkhoff is scheduled to battle Hardwick in the 100-yard freestyle, the Hawks and Upper St. Clair are battling for the team title, which currently is in the hands of North Allegheny. The Tigers lead the competition and are expected to dominate the second half of the meet.
“We are not too concerned with NA,” said USC skipper Dave Schraven. “We are just focused on holding off Bethel Park.”
USC goes at it with Hardwick as well as Dudzinski, who is featured in the backstroke. Each had impressive wins in their secondary swims.
A junior, Harwick won the 200-yard freestyle. He held off a late surge by NA’s Sam Rutan to win in 1:41.86. Rutan finished in 1:41.99.
“I knew I had to got out fast because I knew Sam was good on the back half,” said Hardwick. “I saw him coming. I knew I had to get my hand to the wall first and fortunately I did.”
Of his first individual WPIAL gold Hardwick added with a laugh, “it’s long overdue. But it’s awesome.”
Impressive, too, was Dudzinski’s win in the 100-yard butterfly. The sophomore scorched the field, winning with an All-America time of 49.37. Peters Township’s Kyle Higgins finished second in 51.34.
“I knew it would be a tough race,” Dudzinski said. “It was nerve-wracking because I’m unshaven and not tapered. I hope to go faster at states.”
Dudzinski didn’t necessarily set out to break the WPIAL record of 48.97 set last year by PT’s Andrew Rich. He just wanted to swim faster and faster. “The record was in the back of my mind but for the most part my strategy is to go out fast and come back faster. It didn’t work out that way this time but I’m happy with the win.”
Though no other local swimmer posted a win, several submitted pleasing results. Among those individuals were:
• Mitchel Stahara of Bethel Park, fourth, and Mt. Lebanon’s Noah Wechter, eighth in the 200 free.
• Dan Pletz from Peters Township and BP’s Danile Litwin, fifth and seventh in the 200 IM.
• BP’s Zach Misak, USC’s Nathan Novak and Lebo’s Mike Yeckley, second, fifth and seventh in the 50 free.
• Lebo’s Andrei Mihailescu, BP’s Illya Vogel, USC’s Jake Johnsen and Martin Bacik, fifth, seventh, eighth and 10th in the fly.
• PT’s medley relay team of Pletz, Chris Buzard, Higgins and Jason Lee finished runner-up to NA. The Tigers won with an All-America time of 1:34.39 while PT’s time of 1:35.72 is good enough for All-America consideration.
• USC’s medley relay of Kevin Liu, Tomos Williams, Dudzinski and Novak took third in 1:36.67.