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Penn Hills swimmer Gregory shines on large stage

March 26, 2018

This part of the season is all about hitting your best times in the pool in order to win the biggest races.

That’s exactly what Penn Hills junior Kimani Gregory accomplished at the WPIAL Class AAA championships March 1-2 at Trees Pool.

Gregory won two events — the 100-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly — to highlight Penn Hills’ performance.

In the 100 freestyle, Gregory set a new WPIAL record with a time of 44.09 seconds and edged out North Allegheny senior Mason Gonzalez, the defending 100 free champion.

Gonzalez, who set the WPIAL record last year with a time of 44.17, finished second at 44.15.

“We’ve been competitors since I was 11. It feels really cool to know that you’re chasing your competition. He’s an awesome competitor,” Gregory said.

“I’ve been chasing him for five or six years and to finally get that one moment feels pretty good. He pushed me to get here.”

Last season, Gregory finished second to Gonzalez at WPIALs and states. This season, Gregory developed a plan of starting fast to combat Gonzalez’s length and size.

“I know last year, he would get me because I could hang with him the first 50 but by the time we got to the last 25 he would push off the wall and he would start stroking,” Gregory said. “With his length and size of his hands, he would get a better pull than me.

“We were working on getting in front of the competition and maintaining that while staying fast.”

Gregory’s performance at WPIALs started off well when he won the 100 butterfly with a time of 48.25, which was a personal best.

Canon-McMillan senior Cody Stewart finished second with a time of 49.08, and defending state runner-up North Allegheny senior Andrew Zhang finished third (50.05).

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t have the soreness in the arms for the last 30 yards because that’s the most important part of the race. To get that win early on with the best time allowed me to carry the energy to the next race,” Gregory said.

Last year at states, Gregory finished ninth (50.61) in the 100 butterfly. He won WPIALs in 50.17.

Senior Stephanie Sipple medaled at WPIALs for Penn Hills in the 100 butterfly and the 500 freestyle.

However, Sipple will look to redeem herself at states after finishing with a disappointing time in her best event — 100 butterfly.

Sipple, a Cleveland State recruit, finished eighth with a time of 58.12 in the event. Last season, Sipple finished 15th (57.45) at states and third at WPIALs with a time of 57.14.

“I was honestly disappointed with that because I expected to go a lot faster. I kind of died on the last night because I was in third the whole time before the last lap,” Sipple said.

“I know it’s going to probably hurt, but I’m going to have to really, really push through it. I did everything technically right, but my body just gave out a little bit.”

With the pressure off from racing the 100 butterfly the day before, Sipple finished fourth in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:09.49. Last season, she took seventh (5:08.51) at WPIALs.

Junior Glenn Hanna (50 free, 100 free), junior Emma Lintelman (200 IM) and sophomore Colleen Hoolahan (100 breast) participated in individual events at WPIALs but were unable to qualify for states.

Andrew John is a freelance writer.