Smith, Ford lead AAA ladies in swimming
Mt. Lebanon’s Katie Ford (second from bottom) gets a strong start on her way to victory in the 50-yard freestyle.
Though North Allegheny dominated the girls’ competition during the first day of the WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships, the community of Mt. Lebanon celebrated two gold medal winners at the University of Trees Pool.
Leah Smith blew away the competition in the 200-yard freestyle. The Oakland Catholic senior, who resides in Mt. Lebanon, shattered the record she set in 2011.
A Virginia recruit, Smith did not swim scholastically as a junior because she took the year off to train for the Summer Olympics. Smith competed in the United States Olympic Trials but just missed making the national team.
In coasting to the win in the 200, Smith posted a 1:45.81 time, reducing her own record by 1.83 seconds. That mark earned her All-America status and was off the state record by seven-tenths of a second. Meaghan Raab set the state standard last year with a 1:45.10.
Meanwhile, Ford also regained her title. As a freshman she captured the 50-yard freestyle crown. Her personal best-time of 23.42 earned her All-America recognition as well. The mark was one-tenth of a second off the WPIAL record set by Maggie Walker of Peters Township in 2009.
“It was exciting,” Ford said of her victory, “but I didn’t feel too great because I’m not rested, shaved or tapered. I’m looking to do better at states.”
Ford, however, was satisfied with the win and her time.
“The goal was a best time and it was my best time,” she explained. “If I won, then I would be happy about it.
At the state meet set for March 14-16 at Bucknell University, Ford would be delighted to break the 23-second barrier.
“Maybe that will be good for first or second, but I’m looking for Top 3 at states,” said the junior.
Regardless of that future expectation, Ford’s coach, Tom Donati, was pleased with the present result.
“I’m so proud of Katie,” he said. “She wanted to win. She missed this the past year. So to win is awesome.
“Katie has worked so hard. She’s in a good place right now. I’m happy for her.”
The NA girls are in a good place heading into tomorrow’s second and final day of competition. The Tigers hold a commanding lead, 253-134, over second-place Oakland Catholic in the team standings.
Other top 10 individual performances from female area swimmers included:
• Lebo’s Meghan Schilken, fourth, and Anna McGlade, ninth in the 200 free. Ford, Schilken, McGlade and Veronica Bogdanski finished runner-up to NA in the 200 free relay.
• Bethel Park’s Allie Brinkhoff, fourth, and Upper St. Clair’s Meg Haggerty, 10th in the 200 IM.
• USC’s Victoria Shaffer, seventh, Jessica Reilly, ninth, and Betsy Erlanger, 10th in the 50 free.
• USC’s Brittany Dudzinski, sixth, and Gavi Krohner, ninth, in the 100 butterfly.
Smith, Ford lead AAA ladies in swimming
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