Mars' Pierre defends 200 freestyle crown

March 6, 2019 Cranberry Local Sports

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Mars senior Andrew Pierre stands atop the medal stand shortly after winning the WPIAL Class AA boys 200-yard freestyle Thursday at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool.

PITTSBURGH — The heavy heart Andrew Pierre was swimming with Thursday did not weigh him down.

Pierre, whose father, Joseph, died unexpectedly in September, won the WPIAL Class AA boys 200-yard freestyle for the second straight year at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool.

“My dad was on my mind today, 100 percent,” Pierre said. “He was a great influence on me becoming a swimmer and I wanted to win today for him.”

Pierre said his father was dedicated to supporting his athletic endeavors.

“He didn't miss a single one of my meets,” he said. “Last year when I won two (WPIAL) titles, he was the first person I saw when I looked up into the stands. He was ecstatic. He came down and took my picture, he was always taking pictures. It was different this year, not seeing him after my event.”

People deal with loss in different ways, but Mars coach Todd Slobodnyak said he wasn't surprised that Pierre stuck with swimming in this, his senior year.

“I think he realized that this season was his last chance to do something important in high school swimming,” the coach said. “He did everything he needed to do.”

Pierre's time of one minute, 42.19 seconds was also good enough to break the school record of 1:43.89, set by Francis Folz. The former said he was able to see where he was during Thursday's event.

“I could see the kid in lane four (New Castle's Zach Bell) was fading and lane six (Deer Lakes' Adam Morrison) was right there and I figured he was going to finish strong. I knew what I had to do.”

Morrison finished runner-up, .33 seconds behind Pierre.

On Friday, Pierre broke his own school record in the 500 freestyle with a second-place time of 4:40.99.

Class AAA

Owen Blazer did not bring home a gold medal from the WPIAL Swimming Championships, but you wouldn't have guessed it from the look of satisfaction he exuded at the end of Class AAA action on Friday.

The Seneca Valley junior was part of five school records during the two-day meet, the last coming as a member of the Raiders' 400-yard freestyle relay team.

Blazer and teammates Max Bredl, Daniel Simoes and Kevin Donaldson swam a third-place time of three minutes, 10.08 seconds.

Freshman Donaldson swam the anchor leg of the relay and capped the record-breaking effort.

“We knew in early January that it was going to be us four swimming the relay here at WPIALs,” Blazer said. “We're more of a 100-based team than a 50-based team.”

Blazer had swam the first leg of the relay in 46.42, breaking SV's 100 freestyle record in the process.

His day began with a time of 49.38 in the 100 backstroke, breaking another school record, his own, while placing second behind Upper St. Clair's Jack Fitzpatrick.

Most notably, the time in the backstroke earned for Blazer All-American status in the event.

“It's his first All-American swim and my first as a head coach,” said SV's Brian Blackwell. “It was a great performance.”

“Last year, I got All-American consideration in the backstroke, but ended up getting bumped out,” said Blazer. “It's nice to know that I definitely have it now.”

Blazer had already broken the school's butterfly record with a finish of 49.88 on Thursday and joined with Max Skeen, Simoes and Donaldson to topple the school standard in the 200 freestyle relay (1:27.17).

“Other than winning a gold medal, I couldn't have asked for more,” said Blazer. “I learned a lot here this year. There are things with my swims that are easily correctable.”

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