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Fitting Farewell

Senior Xu takes WPIAL breaststroke title in final varsity swim at Trees Pool

PITTSBURGH — In his final high school event at the University of Pittsburgh’s Trees Pool, Haihan Xu knew only one way to go out — as a champion.

Seneca Valley’s senior turned in a time of 54.92 seconds in the WPIAL Class 3A boys breaststroke, earning for him a championship in the event for the second straight year. Pine-Richland’s Matthew Carper was a distant second at 56.69.

“I got off to a fast start today because I was going for the WPIAL record,” said Xu. “But you can’t get your arms going too fast. You still have to have the right technique and power in your stroke.”

Seneca Valley’s Haihan Xu is seen here on his way to the WPIAL Class 3A boys breaststroke title Friday at Trees Pool. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle

The district record is 54.40, set by Upper St. Clair’s Josh Matheny in 2021. While Xu did not put his name in the WPIAL record book, his time did eclipse his own school record of 55.12. This followed his effort Thursday, which yielded a 200 individual medley crown and a 200 freestyle relay win with teammates Connor Seeley, Frankie Walton and Gavin Blazer.

“The state meet last year didn’t go as well for (Xu) as he had hoped,” said SV coach Brian Blackwell. “I know he wanted to come in here and put himself in position to get a good seed in his events at states.”

“I’ve been swimming in meets here since I was 9 years old (club swimming),” Xu said. “Winning in my last meet at this pool means a lot. It shows all the work I put in is bearing fruit.”

SV placed second in the team standings with 260 points. North Allegheny won the championship with 321½ points.

SV’s Claire Riehl saw quite a jump in her results in the girls 50 and 100 freestyles. As a sophomore last year, she placed 13th and 19th, respectively. In Thursday’s meet, she took eighth in the 50 (24.78) and placed seventh in the 100 (53.67) on Friday.

“I was just looking to swim a personal-best time in both events, which I did, but I wasn’t even thinking about making the podium (top eight),” Riehl said. “Last year was my first year at Seneca Valley. I went to Villa Maria (in Erie) before that and just had a different type of mind-set this season.”

Class 2A — Knoch’s Giona Lavorini was hoping to build off an impressive freshman showing here that produced a fourth-place effort in the girls IM and fifth place in the breaststroke a year ago.

Knoch sophomore Giona Lavorini competes in the WPIAL Class 2A girls breaststroke during the district championship meet Friday in Pittsburgh. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle

She accomplished that goal, placing fifth in the IM and second in the breaststroke. More importantly than the places on the podium, however, were the times she turned in — 2:07.90 and 1:03.96, respectively.

“Both times are now within a second of the school record,” said Lavorini. “I’m just a sophomore, so I’ve got two more years to go and that’s something to look forward to. This was a stronger season for me.”

Also awaiting Lavorini is a likely berth into the state meet.

In boys action, North Catholic’s Luke Lamb benefitted from a growth spurt over the last 12 months.

“Last year, I was 5-8 and 125 pounds,” said the sophomore. “Now I’m 5-11 and 145. Plus, I’ve spent a lot of time in the water.”

His time in the pool Thursday proved impressive. He placed second in the backstroke (50.63) and helped the Trojans place second in the 400 freestyle relay with teammates John Lamb, Matthew Littleton and Jackson Kress.

The same foursome on Thursday won the 200 medley relay with a district-record time of 1:35.80.

“It’s a great environment,” said Luke. “We all push each other and train so well together.”

Following are Butler County’s swimmers who earned a medal by placing in the top eight at the WPIAL Championships, which concluded Friday at the University of Pittsburgh’s Trees Pool.

Class 3A

Girls

100 freestyle: 7-Claire Riehl (SV) 53.67

400 freestyle relay: 5-Seneca Valley (Bella Kling, Morgan Baker, Alissa Wilson, Claire Riehl) 3:37.06

Boys

100 backstroke: 4-Connor Seeley (SV) 51.73

100 breaststroke: 1-Haihan Xu (SV) 54.92

400 freestyle relay: 7-Seneca Valley (Gavin Blazer, Logan Hockenberry, Dylan Seeley, Frankie Walton) 3:16.02

Class 2A

Girls

100 breaststroke: 2-Giona Lavorini (K) 1:03.96

Boys

100 freestyle: 4-Luke Lamb (NC) 47.60

500 freestyle: 6-Adrian Lavorini (K) 4:54.96

100 backstroke: 2-Luke Lamb (NC) 50.63; 4-Jackson Kress (NC) 51.98

100 breaststroke: 5-John Lamb (NC) 1:00.41

400 freestyle relay: 2-North Catholic (Luke Lamb, John Lamb, Matthew Littleton, Jackson Kress) 3:11.32

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