South Fayette swim and dive team takes three vans to Bucknell University

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South Fayette swimming and diving coach Matt Tucker used to be able to transport all of his PIAA Class AA qualifiers to the state meet using one vehicle.


This season – the most successful in the history of the program – Tucker needed three vans.


“It’s a good problem to have,” Tucker said.


After winning the first section title in 15 years and the first WPIAL Class AA championship in program history, the South Fayette girls hope to keep the good times rolling starting today at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium.


The four-day event concludes Saturday after two days of Class AA competition and two more in Class AAA.


South Fayette’s girls had all three relays qualify for states: the 200-yard medley, seeded second; the 200 freestyle, seeded 16th; and the 400 freestyle relay, seeded third.


Morgan Fink, who won a second consecutive WPIAL Class AA championship in the 100 breaststroke earlier this month at Pitt’s Trees Pool, is seeded third in the event at 1:05.01 seconds.


Other top 10 seeds for South Fayette include Mary Rosati’s seventh-best 500 freestyle time of 5:06.65 and Fink’s 200 freestyle time of 1:53.96, good enough for ninth-place. Diver Gracie Klimek is seeded seventh.


“The girls and the boys are going to have to trust their training will take them far,” Tucker said. “Even though it’s a big meet, most of them have been here before. So at least they know what it’s about.”


Outside of South Fayette, one swimmer to keep an eye on locally is Luke Simpson.


Simpson is seeded third in the 50 freestyle, which is scheduled for today. He’s also 11th in the 100 backstroke after crushing his seed time at the WPIAL meet.


In Class AAA, Peters Township’s Saoirse Palu-Benson garnered a pair of top 10 seeds: ninth in the 100 fly (56.94) and 10th in the 500 free (5:04.16).


Kyle Higgins, a Kentucky recruit and the top swimmer on Peters Township’s boys team, is seeded 13th in the 100 backstroke at 52.09. But Higgins was sick at the WPIAL meet and had not yet tapered his training.


Teammate Chris Buzard is sixth in the 100 breaststroke at 57.65.


State-wide, one of the best races should be Oakland Catholic’s Leah Smith against Hershey’s Meaghan Raab in the girls 200 free.


Raab edged Smith in this event two years ago. But Smith, a Virginia recruit, has returned to high school swimming after competing in the Olympic Trials and lapped the field while setting 500 free record at the WPIAL meet.


Such excitement has also been seen at South Fayette this season, as the Lions won the West Allegheny Christmas Tournament and Big Six Invitational at Central York – two high-level tournaments.


And after a dinner Tuesday night at La Primaaera, South Fayette will look for another strong showing at a big-time meet.


“I expect the same from all the big swimmers from before. From Mary and Morgan and Maddie (Bartrug), then the relays. I expect strong performances from all of them. I’m hoping for as many one through eight finishes as possible.”


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