The WPIAL swimming championships might be as close as an indoor sports event comes to rush hour at New York’s Grand Central Station.
It might be all-quiet at the start of each race, but that’s quickly followed by raucous cheering, swimmers crowding the pool deck anticipating the next event to go off the blocks, and coaches shouting encouragement while jogging beside the lanes.
Announcements on the public address system are often lost in the commotion, and meanwhile hundreds of awards and PIAA berths are handed out on the medals stand in the balcony.
“These are the best swimmers from all the best teams, so it’s really humbling to be there and it’s amazing when one of your teammates finishes near the top,” Pine-Richland senior Rebecca Mobley said.
Pine-Richland will send 13 swimmers to the WPIAL Class AAA championships, which start today and end Friday at Pitt’s Trees Pool.
“Sometimes the atmosphere overwhelms them, and sometimes it doesn’t overwhelm them at all,” Pine-Richland coach Pete Barry said. “Our whole goal right now is to break the top 10 in team scoring down there.
“This is the biggest group we’ve taken down in individual events,” he said. “We have three relays and we’re looking to break some team records. If we break the records, we’ll score the (team) points.”
Pine-Richland doesn’t have any freshmen qualified for the WPIALs, so many of the swimmers already have experienced the carnival atmosphere.
“They’ve been there before and they’re up and ready for it,” Barry said.
Mobley makes her fourth trip to the WPIALs, so she knows what lies ahead as she competes in the 100 fly.
“I’m just going to try to swim my personal best time, and I’d like to end on a positive note,” Mobley said.
Pine-Richland’s Kristen Murslack is top-seeded in two events (100 breaststroke, 200 individual medley) so she could pile up serious team points during the championships. She won the 200 individual medley gold medal as a freshman last year, but didn’t qualify for states in the 100 breaststroke. She said that gave her added incentive this season.
Murslack’s sister, Allison, also a sophomore making her second trip to the WPIALs, will compete in both the 200 and 500 freestyle.
“It’s really nerve-wrecking because I wasn’t used to it, and it’s such a different atmosphere than any normal meet,” Allison Murslack said. “A lot of the fans are crazy compared to other swim meets.”
Allison Murslack said she’s aiming for a time under 1:57 in the 200, and 5:10 in the 500. Both would mark personal bests.
“I think if I can hit those times, I have a shot at states,” she said.
Also for Pine-Richland girls, Amy Carto will compete in the 100 fly, Larson Engberg will swim the 100 fly and 500 freestyle, Allie Sanzi will jump into the 500 and 200 freestyle and Lydia Sargent will go off in the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.
“Our girls are pretty strong, and we’re looking for them to place top six and do well in the (200 and 400 freestyle) relays and get them out to states,” Barry said.
The Rams girls enter the swimming championships with 22 team points already banked, thanks to the gold medal Lauren Lamendola won, and the 14th place Tiana Broen added, in the WPIAL Class AAA diving championships held at Pine-Richland last Saturday.
For the Rams boys, Graham Fennell will swim the 100 backstroke, Matt Jackson will compete in the 100 breaststroke, Adam Mobley and Paul Schreiber both have qualified for the 100 fly and junior Eamon Trebilock hopes to rack up some team points in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke.
“There’s a lot of pressure on me because I’ve been there before, but I know how to deal with it,” Trebilock said. “I’m just going to try to go fast and trust in my training.
“My goal is to make it out to states this year, and I’m about three seconds off the expected cutoff (in the 200 IM),” he said. “I’d like to go under two minutes, which would really be nice for me.”
The boys start with a 17-point boost courtesy of sophomore Dominic Giordano’s bronze medal in the diving championships.
“If some of our boys make it out to states, great,” Barry said. “We’re going for lifetime bests and the best we can do against our team records. It’s about the record board.”
Based on electronic timing, the top 32 swimmers in each individual event throughout Western Pennsylvania will qualify for states.