USC swimmers prepare for PIAA
Second-best not good enough USC
Second-best doesn’t sit well with the Upper St. Clair boys’ swim team. So after breaking yet another record at the University of Pittsburgh’s Trees Pool only to finish runner-up to North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAA, the Panthers have set their sights on a PIAA championship. The finals are set for March 12-14 at Bucknell University.
“Our team goal is to win the state title,” said Ryan Dudzinski. “That’s what we said at the end of the meet. We wanted to go out with a bang [at WPIALs] and set ourselves up for states. There’s more to accomplish.”
For Dudzinski, there is certainly little left to achieve at the district level. In the final race of the meet, he anchored Alex Hardwick, Patrick Lersch and Fynn Minuth to victory. The foursome coasted to victory in the 400-yard freestyle relay. In posted a 3:03.63 time, the Panthers eclipsed the WPIAL record of 3:04.59 set in 2009 by North Allegheny.
Two events earlier, Dudzinski smashed the WPIAL mark in the 100-yard backstroke. In clocking a 48.35, the junior surpassed the mark of 48.75 set in 2011 by his brother, Kyle, who currently excels at the University of Virginia.
“It’s good to take that record down. I was looking to do that last year,” said the defending champion. “It’s tough. I know that Kyle wanted me to get the record. It’s what I was looking for.”
Dudzinski looked for and trumped the record in the 100-yard butterfly as well. With a 48.13 time, he clipped .84 off the previous standard set in 2012 by Andrew Rich from Peters Township.
“Ryan is at a different level,” said USC head coach Dave Schraven. “We knew he would be strong in the meet. That he’d be the fastest. Actually, he wasn’t even in my field of vision because I was paying attention to the other swimmers. That’s how far ahead of everybody he is.”
Recruiters from Auburn were on hand to watch Dudzinski perform and he did not disappoint. Even in the 200-yard medley relay, he was spectacular, swimming a 22.16 in during the first leg, a 50-yard backstroke swim. Tomos Williams, Minuth and Nathan Novak, with a 20.91 freestyle leg, followed as USC also took down the record. The Panthers combined for a 1:31.77 time, smashing the mark of 1:34.19 set in 2012 by NA.
USC also set a new standard in winning the 200 free relay. Williams, Lersch and Hardwick posted a 1:23.73 time.
“All three relays set records in the meet. That’s unprecedented,” said Schraven. “How unbelievable was that?”
That USC managed to finish only 9.5 points behind NA, which won its sixth straight title with a 373.5 score was unbelievable considering the misfortune the Panthers endured on the first day of competition.
Six laps into the 200 freestyle, Hardwick stopped. Due to an asthma attack, he was unable to complete the race in which he was seeded first with a 1:41.26 time.
Brian Lovasik of North Hills won the event in 1:39.92. Lovasik also unseated Hardwick as the champion in the 100 free. Lovasik won in 45.36 and Hardwick took second in 45.92.
“After what happened to Alex, we felt more motivated,” Dudzinski said. “Actually, he was the most motivated I’ve seen when he came back and anchored the  relay.”
Individually, the Panthers came back strong, particularly on the second day of the competition. NA did not clinch the title until it won the breaststroke with Casey Melzer and took second in the 400 free relay.
In between, Minuth, Williams, Novak, Lersch, Jake Johnsen, Braedon Wong and Kevin Liu submitted quality performances that earned them spots on the awards podium.
Minuth secured silver in the 500 free and bronze in the 200 free. Williams and Novak tied for second place in the 50 free. Williams added fifth in the breaststroke. Lersh placed seventh in the 100 free and sixth in the 200 free. Johnsen sealed second in the fly. Wong and Liu finished fourth and fifth in the back.
“We did a fantastic job,” Schraven said of coming back and being in the meet. “You never know how a team will respond but we responded unbelievably well.”
Now, it’s on to states for the Panthers.
“Our goal from the beginning has been a state title,” said Schraven.
Dudzinski agreed. “[WPIALs] is a monster in itself, but we’re after the PIAA.”
“Definitely,” he added regarding himself individually, “I’m looking to drop times at states.”
Mt. Lebanon took third in the boys’ team standings, posting 235 points. In addition to Carly Johns, who finished fourth in the diving, the Blue Devils benefited from the performances of Andre Mihailescu, Brian Ramsey, Noah Wechter, Alex Rick, Nik Victor, Gab Nass and Jack Lanphear for states.
Mihailescu took third in the back and eighth in the fly. Wechter finished fifth in the fly.
Ramsey finished fourth in the breast and Lanphear followed in seventh. Ramsey also secured seventh in the IM while Victor followed in eighth position.
Rice placed eighth in the 50 free.
Lebo took third in all three relays. Mihailescu, Ramsey, Wechter and Rice comprised the medley. Mihailescu, Nass, Victor and Rice made up the 200 free. Wechter anchored the 400 free relay that consisted of Nass, Rice and Victor.
Other top individual performers included:
• Mitchel Stahara of Bethel Park; third and fourth in the 200 and 100 free
• Connor Martin of Peters Township, sixth and eighth in the 500 and 200 free
• PT placed seventh in the 400 free and eighth in the 200 free and medley relays. Martin, Joe Duleavy, Sebastian Yocca and Adam Harsch made up the 400 free. Mitchell Golias, Martin, Dunleavy and Harsch swam the 200 free while Harsch, Martin, Yocca and Golias comprised the medley.
• BP finished seventh and eighth in the 200 and 400 free relays. Nick Friday, Stahara, Vinny Tavoletti and Michael Brinker comprised the 200 unit. Keith Powell anchored the 400 free in place of Brinker.