USC, BP battled for best in swimming

Published Mar 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm (Updated Mar 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm)

While North Allegheny dominated the second day of competition during the WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships at the University of Pittsburgh, Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair battled for supremacy in the South Hills.

While the Tigers swept the boys’ and girls’ team titles, racking up 327 and 417 points respectively, the USC boys edged BP in the boys’ standings, 269.5 to 224, and the USC girls finished third behind runner-up Oakland Catholic, 257-189.5.

“I’m very proud of my teams,” said USC skipper Dave Schraven. “We swam exceptionally well.”

So did the Hawks. Despite their third-place position, the BP boys shattered the school record during a dramatic 400-yard freestyle relay race. Though touched out by NA by two-tenths of a second, the Hawks finished with an All-America 3:07.93 time. USC followed in third with an All-America consideration time of 3:08.20.

Of the new school standard, BP head coach Dave Kutrufis said, “that’s exactly what the boys wanted. They knew they had a chance. It’s the same team as last year and that experienced helped. They stepped up and swam.”

Erik Brinkhoff certainly did. After losing the 100-yard freestyle title to friendly rival Alex Hardwick of USC, he anchored the 400-free unit of Mitchel Stahara, Zach Misak and Daniel Litwin.

In addition to Hardwick, who led off the race, the Panthers’ foursome featured butterfly and backstroke champion Ryan Dudzinski on the anchor leg as well as Patrick Lersch and Nikhil Narayanan.

While disappointed to have lost to Hardwick for the second year in a row in the 100 free, Brinkhoff, who won the 50-yard freestyle race, adapted. The senior made subtle changes to his technique and helped BP to the new mark.

“The way I look at it,” Brinkhoff said about his third-place showing in the 100 free with a 47.18 time, “the most important race is the next race. I put it (the 100 free) behind me and focused on the relay. I did what my coaches told me to do underwater with my turns and it worked.

“It feels so great to finish with the school record,” continued the senior. “We all had to swim our best times and we did. It’s amazing because the people who had that record were really, really good,” he emphasized. “So it felt great to take that record down.”

Though Dudzinski did not take down his brother Kyle’s record in the 100 backstroke, the sophomore did earn an All-America consideration time of 50.63 in winning the event.

“My time was a bit slower than I expected. I expect to be faster at states,” Dudzinski said. “While it’s great to win and be awarded, it doesn’t exactly stand for much when you know you could have done better.”

While Hardwick, too, expects to do better at states, as do all the PIAA qualifiers, he knows that he gave it all he had to beat Brinkhoff in the 100 free and clinch his second individual gold medal of the competition. Hardwick also won the 200 free.

“When you swim against Erik, you know you will be in for a good race,” explained the junior. “I saw him go out quite fast in the first 50 that I knew I needed to pick it up. On the last turn, I gave it all I had and hoped that it was going to be enough.”

Hardwick, who had finished second the past two years, won the race in 46.44. Brian Lovasik of North Hills touched out Brinkhoff for the silver with a 47.18 time.

“It feels good to win,” Hardwick said, “but I’m not tapered or shaved. Winning here with a good time gives me confidence and hopefully I can build off that for states knowing that I will go faster.”

Fastest among the area competitors was Leah Smith. The Oakland Catholic senior, who resides in Mt. Lebanon shattered her own WPIAL record in winning the 500-yard freestyle with a 4:39.78 time. She finished 22 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher and ahead of Peters Township’s Saorise Palu-Benson, who took third in 5:04.16.

Smith, who has competed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials and will attend the University of Virginia next year, also broke the 100-yard freestyle record with her lead-off leg on the 400-yard freestyle relay. Smith clocked in at 50.48.

Other Top 8 swims of the day by area swimmers included:

• Chris Buzard of Peters Township, fourth, and Stahara, seventh in the 100 free.

• Anna McGlade of Lebo, sixth, 500 free.

• BP’s Zach Misak, PT’s Kyle Higgins and Dan Pletz, Lebo’s Andrei Mihailescu and USC’s Kevin Liu, second, fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth in the back.

• Lebo’s Meghan Schilken and Katie Ford, USC’s Brittany Dudzinski and BP’s Allie Brinkhoff, second, third, fifth and sixth in the back.

• Buard and Litwin, third and ninth in the breaststroke.

• USC’s Carissa Hentosz, ninth, breast.

• PT’s Connor Martin and Lebo’s Noah Wechter, sixth and seventh, 500 free.

• USC’s Victoria Shaffer, eighth, 100 free.

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