By Brian Savard
LEWISBURG, Pennsylvania, March 29. WHILE Oakland Central Catholic defended its 2007 Pennsylvania Women's AA state championship, the main story of the meet came from two Division I-bound juggernauts.
Leah Gingrich of East Pennsboro, a Swimming World six-star recruit, placed her name among the best in the nation with wins in the 200 IM and the 500 freestyle. She came out swinging in the 200 IM, splitting a 26.10 in the opening butterfly split and continued on with a 30.44 backstroke, a 36.76 breaststroke and brought it home with a 27.80 freestyle, stopping the clock in a state-record time of 2:01.10. Allysa Vavra of Panther Valley, who took second to Gingrich in the event, set the former AA record of 2:01.48 last year.
Gingrich said that she didn't worry about adjusting her race plan to the competition.
"I just tried to swim my race," she said. "Allysa's a breaststroker, so I knew I had to go that out fast. We've been working a lot on breaststroke in practice."
Gingrich then swam well out in front for all 20 laps of the 500 freestyle, resetting her 2006 record of 4:45.29 with a 4:44.07 swim. Gingrich will attend the University of Texas in the fall.
Kristen Shickora from Marian Catholic, a Swimming World five-star recruit bound for the University of Georgia next season, was bestowed with the Swimmer of the Meet Award for her first-place finishes in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. She swam the 50 in 23.33, nearly missing the class standard of 23.17. Shickora dazzled the crowd with a sizzling 53.88 100 backstroke, crushing her 2007 mark of 55.30.
Andrea Marko of Greensburg Central Catholic dropped two full seconds off of her seed time in the 100 butterfly to take the state title in a quick 54.92. Kelsey Grushecky from Yough set the former Class AA standard of 55.45 in 2005. Marko also took second to Shickora in the 100 backstroke with a 56.60.
York Suburban's Lauren Schmittle also reached the top of the podium twice, mining gold in the 200 freestyle (1:51.85) and the 100 freestyle (51.18).
Radnor bested the competition twice in the relay events. The Radnor foursome of Sarah Hirschfeld, Emily Hanhauser, Katie Pulos and Galen Fisher pounded the touchpad at 1:37.76 in the 200 freestyle relay while the 400 freestyle relay contingent of Pulos, Hanhauser, Hirschfeld and Fisher notched the Red Raiders' second win of the evening with a 3:36.42.
Allentown Central Catholic's Catherine Rose took the gold in the diving event, scoring a 421.65. Ali-Marie Murphy of Central Columbia earned a second-place finish with a 406.80 score while Danville's Amanda Palenchar picked up third (397.25).
Oakland Catholic easily took the team title with 169.5 points, winning for the second straight year. Radnor, whose last state title was in 1983, took second with 138 points while Wyomissing finished up in third with 131 points.