PITTSBURGH — Belle Vernon’s Ian Shahan and Robert Spekis defended their district titles in style Friday afternoon, while Geibel Catholic’s Cole Dorobish finally won his gold medal in the WPIAL Class AA Swimming Championships at the University of Pittsburgh’s Trees Pool.
Spekis broke his own WPIAL record in winning the 100 breaststroke in 56.99 seconds. Shahan lowered the mark established by Blackhawk’s Mark Stepanian in 2009 with his winning time of 45.48 seconds. Dorobish won his first gold medal when he touched the wall in 52.77 seconds in the 100 backstroke.
Shahan’s training since last year’s WPIAL meet was focused on this year’s championship.
“I’ve been training a lot this whole season. I’ve been working hard. I knew this is what I wanted. The competition drives me, it invigorates me,” explained Shahan.
That year-long drive netted a gold medal in a record-breaking time.
“It’s really exciting to see that record,” said Shahan. “It was a really tough race. I have to hand it to my competition.”
Shahan wasn’t the only swimmer to break Stepanian’s time. Neshannock’s Conner McBeth also lowered the mark with his second-place finish in 45.80 seconds. McBeth was in Lane 5 to the left of Shahan. McBeth had Shahan in his sights, breathing to his left in the final 25 yards to keep an eye on him.
“I could see him when I breathed,” said Shahan.
Shahan’s attention now turns to the state meet next week.
“I’m going into states looking for redemption in the butterfly. I want to take gold in both,” added Shahan.
Spekis didn’t intend on breaking his meet record, but if he set a PR (personal best) in the race, it was going to break his record.
“Coming in here, doing what I did was amazing,” said Spekis. “I go and do the best I can in all my races. I’ve been working hard.
“The WPIAL means more to me. It’s personal. I’ve been swimming against them all my life.”
Spekis closed by saying, “It means a lot to be a part of that.”
Dorobish was in position to win gold in Thursday’s 200 IM, but Spekis beat him to the wall. The Geibel Catholic senior left no room for any rallies in the 100 backstroke, winning in 52.77 seconds, just over a second faster than Northgate’s Aidan Sommers.
Dorobish joins Diego Marquez and Emily Zimcosky as the school’s only WPIAL swimming gold medalists.
“Yes, it does,” a smiling Dorobish responded when asked if winning a gold medal feels good.
Dorobish felt his performance in the 200 IM set up his gold-medal swim.
“I dropped over two seconds (Thursday) in the 200 IM. I had a good feeling coming into today,” said Dorobish. “I knew that I saw people on my peripheral vision.
“The last 50 (yards) is where it counts.”
Dorobish will be checking the PIAA website Sunday afternoon to see if his name appears on the 200 IM qualifier list, but has no such worries in the backstroke.
“It feels great to have a guaranteed spot. I’ve been shooting for this since my freshman year. Now, I get it in my last chance, my last race,” said Dorobish, adding, “It’s a great feeling.”
Laurel Highlands’ Kole Friel was seventh in the 500 freestyle, lowering his seed time by four seconds to touch the wall in 4:59.11. Teammate Jacob Johnson won his fourth medal of the meet when he finished fifth in the 100 backstroke in 54.61 seconds. The Mustangs’ Jonathon Lewis also won his fourth medal after finishing eighth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.68.
Ringgold’s Jacob Niziol placed sixth in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:01.13. Niziol, Nathan Ferrence, Noah Parsons and Andrew Noll finished eighth in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:30.19.
Mount Pleasant’s Zak Koch, Steven Painter, Dalton Swartz and Brad Paraska finished seventh in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:26.95.
Indiana won the team title with 211½ points. Belle Vernon placed fifth with 158 and the Mustangs were seventh with 117 points. Ringgold was 11th with 91 points. The Vikings finished 23 points behind the Rams in 13th place. Dorobish’s 37 points had the Gators in 19th place, and the Warriors were 21st with 33.
NOTES: The following swimmers won medals on Thursday in the first day of competition, but were not included in Friday’s story: The Leopards’ Alex Miller, Sam West, Spekis and Shahan won the silver medal in the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:29.63. ... The Mustangs’ Jonathon Lewis, Dean Schiffbauer, Kole Friel and Jacob Johnson placed seventh in the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:31.90, four seconds faster than their seed time.