PITTSBURGH — Winning the 100-yard butterfly didn't seem to be much of a problem for Maggie Gruber Thursday morning. Making the awards stand to accept her first-place medal was a different story. Gruber won the event with ease, swimming in a time of 53.88 seconds. The effort broke her own WPIAL Class AA girls record of 54.63 set in 2011 and was nearly five seconds better than runner-up Sabrina Bowman from Saint Joseph High School. Following the race, Mars' senior was in the far end at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool, trying to stay loose for her leg of the upcoming 200 freestyle relay when medals for the butterfly were being handed out. “They told me the (butterfly) awards would be held after the relay,” Gruber said with a smile. She left the water and sprinted to the awards stand, just in time to be recognized. It is the fifth time in her decorated high school career she has earned a district championship, including the last three butterfly titles. Gruber added her sixth career WPIAL title Friday, claiming the 100 backstroke with a time of 54.51 seconds, breaking her own district record time of 54.6, set last year. The effort closed the book on Gruber's district championship resume, which included three straight titles in the 100 butterfly and backstroke. “I can't say that any of the titles stand out from the others,” she said. “They've all been memorable. “I wasn't tapered or rested coming into (Thursday),” she added. “I just wanted to execute my turns and finish well. “It's great to win this event three straight times,” added Gruber. “It's always great to get up there and get a first-place medal.” Gruber also helped Mars place third in both the 200 medley relay (1:52.35) and 200 freestyle relay (1:41.37). Her teammates in both events were Caroline Pacey, Nicole Parrish and Torrey Shields. The quartet will swim both events at the state meet later this month. With Pitt moving to the Atlantic Coast Condference, Gruber will be swimming again at Trees Pool as a member of the Virginia Tech women's team. “It will definitely be like a homefield advantage for me,” she said. “Between club and high school meets, I've swam so many times here since I was 10 years old and it is one of my favorite places to compete.” In other action Friday: Shady Side Academy;'s boys have opwned the 400 freestyle relay this century. Until now. Mars' quartet of Reed McDonough, Tommy Pierre, Chris Georgiadis and Francis Folz claimed the championship in 3:17.56, four-hundredths of a second in front of SSA. It marks the first time in 14 seasons that the event did not go to the Indians. The Planets entered Friday's event as the top seed at 3:22.28. The final leg was a battle between between Folz and Shady Side's Brendan Leech, with the latter touching the wall just in front of his counterpart. The relay also helped the Planets place second in the WPIAL team standings with 172 points.
Thursday Class AA Boys Georgiadis admits it was not a perfect swim, but it did yield something he's strived for — WPIAL gold. Mars' junior won the Class AA boys 200-yard individual medley thanks to a finish of one minute, 57.34 seconds. Though it was 2.77 seconds better than his nearest foe — Laurel's Noah Donovan — it was also over seven-tenths of a second slower than his personal-best effort of 1:56.6. “I'm not happy with the time, but winning a WPIAL title makes up for everything,” he said. “I really thought that the race would be closer than it was.” “Chris is not tapered yet,” said Mars coach Heidi Brandon. “Considering that, I thought every stroke in his IM was solid today.” Placing two spots behind Georgiadis was his teammate, junior Pierre, who managed to make states with a finish of 2:01.91. The duo teamed with McDonough and Folz to place third in the 200 medley relay. Folz added a seventh-place finish in the 200 freestyle. Class AAA Girls Kate Miller picked a good time to give her top effort in the 200 freestyle, placing sixth with a personal-best time of 1:53.76. She placed 13th in the event last year. “I was more relaxed at this meet,” said Miller, a senior at Seneca Valley. “I've been training hard this year and it paid off.” “She was fast at the start, it was just an awesome race,” SV coach Brian Blackwell said of Miller. “Usually, the top six from the WPIAL make the state meet. It's going to be close.”