By: Michael Love
Friday, March 4, 2022 | 7:35 PM
The Fox Chapel girls 400-yard freestyle relay finished Friday what the Foxes’ 200 medley relay started Thursday.
The quartet of junior Sophie Shao, senior Ariana Pasquella, junior Payton O’Toole and senior Rei Sperry won the WPIAL Class 3A championship meet-closing relay in a school-record time of 3 minutes, 29.23 seconds
The 200 medley relay kicked off the WPIAL meet with a winning time of 1:43.90.
“I was just trying to live in the moment,” said O’Toole, who tried to soak it all in shortly after senior anchor Sperry touched the wall to complete the 400.
“Looking up and seeing the No. 1 beside our time, I was just so proud of this team. The final lineup was set in place last week, and we had tried many different combinations throughout the year. I think coach Dan (Taylor) had it in his head for a while. He put it in stone early last week so we could practice relay starts because at the end of the day. Those are pretty important.”
The 200 medley and 400 free relays were two of four championship swims for the Foxes. Shao added her third 100 butterfly title and her first 200 individual medley crown Thursday.
The four titles, coupled with 10 other medal-winning swims, landed the Fox Chapel girls in second place in the final team standings with 314 points, 30 behind champion North Allegheny (344).
It was the highest finish for the team since it placed second to Bethel Park in 2006 and ‘07.
“They all swam so well. They were focused all year long. They did everything we asked them to do, and they were awarded this week,” Fox Chapel coach Dan Taylor said. “It was awesome.”
Sperry again was an individual runner-up as she placed second in the 100 freestyle.
She touched the wall in 51.59, behind Upper St. Clair sophomore Kaitlyn Connors. Her time also broke the Fox Chapel school record.
“Kaitlyn is an amazing swimmer, and I have so much respect for her,” Sperry said. “She and I both worked really hard. It would’ve been nice to have won it, but I swam a really good time and broke the record. That was one of my goals. I can’t complain about that.”
Mt. Lebanon freshman Sylvia Roy won the 50 free title Thursday, besting Sperry and the rest of the field by a second or more.
Roy captured the 100 backstroke (53.93) Friday, and for the second time, a Fox Chapel swimmer landed in second overall.
Junior Talia Bugel hoped to win her second WPIAL 100 back title in as many tries, but in the end, she settled for second place in 56.06.
“I tried my best and swam well,” said Bugel, who clocked a 55.93 in winning last year’s 100 back title.
Bugel, who placed 10th in the 500 freestyle right before swimming the 100 back, said she drew a lot of motivation from her older brother, Garrett, who was on hand at Trees Pool to watch her swim.
Kiski Area sophomore Eliza Miller took eighth in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.67) as a freshman at last year’s WPIAL Class 3A meet.
She took a big jump up in the standings Friday with a runner-up time of 1:04.39, more than second better than her seed time (1:05.47).
“I was so excited for my swim. It was crazy,” said Miller, whose time also set a school record. “Going in, I knew there was a girl going 1:04 (champion Natalie Sens from North Allegheny), and I just tried to stay with her. My goal was to get a 1:04 and go to states. I know I can go faster. I have a lot left to give.“
Miller added her silver medal to a fourth in the 200 IM (2:08.06) from Friday.
The Fox Chapel boys team made a late surge and finished fourth in the team standings with 174 points. Seneca Valley won the team title with 333.5 points, followed by Upper St. Clair and North Allegheny.
Freshman Owen Howell paced the Foxes on Day 2 with a third-place finish in the 100 breast in a time of 57.89.
“We were in 10th place before the 100 breast, and we had three boys score (points),” Taylor said. “That really changed the tide. Then the 400 free relay (fifth, 3:11.26) set a school record. It was a great meet for the boys as well.”
Fourth place is the highest the Fox Chapel boys have placed at WPIALs.
Kiski Area juniors Levi Hansen (4:38.39) and Parker Sterlitz (4:38.96) placed third and fourth, respectively in the 500 free.
Last year, Freeport senior Lexi Schrecongost won WPIAL gold in the 100 breast. The Toledo commit had her sights set on a repeat performance as the No. 1 seed Friday.
But Indiana freshman Peyton Scott had something to say about that.
Scott swam to a winning time of 1:04.00. Schrecongost’s time of 1:04.56 is a personal best, but she settled for silver.
“That was my best time ever, so that is exciting,” Schrecongost said. “I pushed myself hard enough and trained well. I don’t think I could’ve done anything better than that. I pushed myself through the last couple of weeks of tapering. I also can’t control what my other competitors do for training, too. That just means I have to train a little bit harder for states now. I am really confident for my relays and how I am going to do at states.”
Schrecongost started Friday’s session with a fourth-place finish in the 100 free (53.87). She led off the 200 free relay, which took third (1:41.80), and was the second leg of the 200 medley relay, which finished runner-up (1:49.71) to Mt. Pleasant.
Only the champions in each event atthe PIAA district meets earned automatic berths to the state championships March 18-19 at Bucknell.
The remaining berths will be determined based on the remaining times recorded at the district meets. Each PIAA event will have the top 32 individuals and top 24 relays.
Plum senior Sam Schohn was right in the mix for the 100 breast title with defending champion Henry Miller, a junior from Southmoreland, and Joseph Gardner, a freshman from Mt. Pleasant.
In the end, Miller bested the field in 57.04, and Gardner checked in at 57.44. Schohn swam to a time of 57.98.
They were the only three in the event to break 1 minute.
Schohn bumped up two spots from last year’s fifth-place finish.
Earning fourth-place medals were Highlands junior Aidan Ochoa in the 100 back (53.76) and St. Joseph senior Sam Wygonik in the 500 free (4:48.13).
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .