Lebo ladies take runner-up trophy
In 2013, Mt. Lebanon finished sixth in the girls’ WPIAL Class AAA team standings. This swim season, the Blue Devils did not win the section title. They didn’t even defeat rivals Bethel Park or Upper St. Clair in dual meet competition.
Yet, during the 2014 WPIAL championships held at the University of Pittsburgh’s Trees Pool, the Lebo ladies walked away with the second biggest prize. In the meet, they claimed the runner-up trophy, finishing only behind North Allegheny. The Tigers rolled to their sixth straight title with 471 points. Lebo racked up 189 points. Upper St. Clair, Bethel Park and Peters Township placed in the Top 10, taking the fifth, sixth and ninth spots in the standings.
“People underestimated us,” said Lebo skipper Tom Donati.
“I don’t think people realized how fast we were swimming,” explained senior Meghan Schilken.
While everybody witnessed Katie Ford’s record-setting races in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races (see related story), few noticed what Donati’s swimmers did under his tutelage and in a new facility. “The new pool is part of it and the new coaching staff,” said Donati.
“Plus, I have the best diving coach in the state of Pennsylvania. And, without our two divers, we don’t do this,” Donati explained of taking home the runner-up trophy. “It was a great team effort.”
Kalli Bickett and Emma Dorazio, under the watchful eye of Doe Krug, got Lebo rolling by placing seventh and 12th and picking up critical points in the diving competition.
Lebo demonstrated its team unity as it picked up third places in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays. Ford, Kathryn Nicholson, Veronica Bogdanski and Emma Buerger made up the 200 free while Nicholson, Schilken, Hannah Bumgarner and Ford comprised the 400-relay unit that closed out the meet and clinched second place.
“I don’t think they understood why I split the relays,” Donati said of his girls. “But to take the trophy, I was hoping it was good enough and it was.
“I’m real proud of the girls. Those relays were awesome and I am so happy for Katie [Ford] and Meghan [Schilken] because they go out not on a win but with a trophy.
“This is the most important meet. This is where it’s important to do well These girls will remember this all their lives,” said Donati, who added he always remembers helping Bethel Park win a WPIAL title in 1986. “This is all-time for them and their school.”
Individually, Nicholson finished fifth in the 50 free while Schilken finished fourth in the backstroke and sixth in the 200 free. Bogdanski and Megan Doody who swam legs on the medley relay also helped Lebo with big points in their individual events.
“We have a great group of girls,” explained Schilken. “We did what we had to do. We all swam up to our potential and it worked in our favor.”
Come March 12-14 at Bucknell University, the Lebo ladies anticipate more things will fall into their favor at the PIAA Class AAA championships.
“Getting a trophy made the [WPIAL] meet even better but people haven’t seen half of Lebo yet,” said Schilken. “We haven’t had our full taper. So I think we will see bigger and better things at PIAAs.”
USC, BP, PT follow
Upper St. Clair and Bethel Park finished fifth and sixth in the team standings while Peters Township followed in ninth.
Among the top performers for the Lady Hawks were: Allie Brinkhoff and Megan Douds. A Toledo recruit, Brinkhoff took third in the 200 IM and seventh in the 100 backstroke while Douds took seventh in the fly and eighth in the 50 free.
Douds and Brinkhoff helped the 400 free relay team to a fourth-place finish. Kelly Kramer and Jessica Hirsch also comprised the unit. The foursome also combined for fifth in the 200 medley relay.
Among the top finishers for the Lady Panthers were: Victoria Schaffer, seventh in the IM and fifth in the 100 free; Lindsey Choate, eighth in the back; and Maddie Yoos sixth in the breaststroke.
USC produced a bronze in the medley relay as well as fourth and fifth in the 200 and 400 free relays. Maeve Lersch, Yoos, Meg Haggerty and Carly Olsakovsky made up the medley. Olsakovsky, Choate, Megan Reilly and Shaffer comprised the free relay.
Saoirse Palu-Benson led the Indians. The senior secured the silver in the 500 free and finished fourth in the 100 fly. She helped the 400 relay team of Julia Corton, Olivia Yocca and Hannah Greguric to a sixth-place showing.
Loeva Palu-Benson finished eighth in the breastroke.