It was a year of team and individual triumph in the North zone.
In a career full of achievements, titles and records, finding a fitting conclusion can be a daunting task. Highlands senior Bailey Bonnett managed to do it though. One of the greatest WPIAL swimmers in recent history, Bonnett went out in a blaze of glory at the PIAA Class 2A championships this week at Bucknell University. In her final high school event, the 100 breaststroke, Bonnett won gold, set a personal best and set a state record. The Kentucky recruit won the 100 breaststroke, which was her fourth individual state title and her second of this year. Her first state title of the event came on her first day of competition, when she snapped a 7-year WPIAL drought in winning the 200-individual medley. In the 100 breaststroke, Bonnett broke the 2015 record held by Wilmington's Lauren Barber by 0.25 seconds. At WPIALs Bonnett won the 100 breaststroke by over five seconds, setting another record. She ends her high school career with eight PIAA individual medals under her belt, four golds, one silver and three bronzes. She won PIAA gold in the 500 freestyle in 2015 and 2016 to go with her two golds this year in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM, a rare display of versatility in the fastest competition in the state.
Quaker Valley's Maddy Andrews is another elite swimmer who bid farewell to the WPIAL this year. Swimming in the 500 freestyle at Bucknell University, Andrews clocked in at 4:59.31 in the marathon event to place third. Later that same day she also anchored the Quaker Valley 400 freestyle relay that notched points by taking 13th. On the first day of the event, Andrews picked up another bronze when she swam the 200 freestyle in 1:51.41. Andrews pulled double duty that day as well when she anchored the 200-freestyle relay for the Quakers. That relay placed ninth.
The Shady Side Academy girls used its strong relays to catapult to second place in the state through all the swimming events at the PIAA Class 2A swimming championships. Shady Side Academy topped 100 points with tremendous help from its two second-place relays. Senior Ashley Azzarello and juniors Heather Grune, Meredith Cummings and Lindsey Grune were edged out by 0.01 seconds by Villa Maria Academy in the 200-freestyle relay.
Azzarello was the highest-finishing swimmer for Shady Side Academy. She took fifth in the 100 backstroke. The Indians were able to cap off the meet with another second-place relay finish, this time in the 400 freestyle relay where Cummings, Heather Grune and Lindsey Grune and junior Jeanne Lauer clocked in at 3:43.83.
North Allegheny rolled to another WPIAL team title in Class 3A. Lauren McGrath (200 freestyle) won individual gold and joined Ann Juneau, Kristine Mihm and Anna Verardi in winning the 200 freestyle relay. Tori Buerger (100 backstroke) also took home individual WPIAL gold for the Tigers.
Butler freshman Laura Goettler burst onto the scene this year to win WPIAL gold in the 200 IM and also break a 13-year old WPIAL record maintained by Mt. Lebanon's Kaitlynn Orstein since 2004. Goettler swam the 200 IM in 2:01.78 to shave over six seconds off her seed time and surprise a trio of swimmers from North Allegheny and Peters Township's Abby Hay.
North Hills junior Sydney Davidson won WPIAL gold in the 100 breaststroke, beating out Goettler by 0.35 seconds.
Mars senior Taylor Hockenberry closed out her career with a WPIAL Class 3A diving title. She finished with a score of 505.90, just ahead of Hampton junior Adrienne White (467.55), the heir apparent to Hockenberry next year.