Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Big Finish Oakland Catholic's Leah Smith Doing Her Best to Make Her Mark in the Pool

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Big Finish Oakland Catholic's Leah Smith Doing Her Best to Make Her Mark in the Pool

Article excerpt

It was a performance that would have sent most any high school swimmer into euphoria -- easily recording a record time while shattering the competition in a sport usually filled with exciting finishes.

Then again, Leah Smith is far from your average high school swimmer.

Upon breaking her WPIAL record by two seconds with a time of 4:39.78 in the 500-yard freestyle at the Class AAA championships last Friday, only one thing was on Smith's mind -- how she could have done better.

"I put a lot of expectations on myself for this meet, which I probably shouldn't have because I only got two days of rest," she said. "The time I wanted to go was 4:34."

Returning to swim this year for her high school, Oakland Catholic, the Mt. Lebanon native won with ease in the two events she swam at the WPIAL meet last week and will look to continue that momentum into the PIAA meet next week at Bucknell University.

For Smith, a senior who will swim collegiately at Virginia, the meet will be her last one in high school, the end of what has become a decorated career.

After setting PIAA records in the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle her sophomore year, Smith did not swim her junior season for Oakland Catholic, opting instead to compete in meets around the country and world.

It was a trek that took her as far as Berlin and Moscow and thrust her upon as big of a stage as the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., where she finished 12th in the 800-meter freestyle and 14th in the 400-meter freestyle. The top two finishers in each event qualified for the Olympics.

Now, back at Oakland Catholic, Smith has continued the dominant performances that she left behind for a year. At the WPIAL meet last week, she finished 22 seconds ahead of the second-place competitor in the 500 freestyle with a time that would have placed her fourth among the boys. …

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