Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

North Hills Freestyler Wins 2 Wpial Golds

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

North Hills Freestyler Wins 2 Wpial Golds

Article excerpt

North Hills junior Curtis Kelly entered the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events at last week's WPIAL swimming championships at Pitt's Trees Pool as the top seed in both.

But there were no guarantees; Kelly still had to put up a good time.

Within seconds of him jumping into the pool for each event, however, North Hills coach Sharon Zacharda knew it was over.

"He had the lead from the beginning, within the first 25 yards," Zacharda said. "He held the lead throughout them both, never in question."

Kelly's times of 21.41 seconds and 47.08 seconds were personal bests. His first-place performances were the highlights of the Indians' seventh-place WPIAL Class AAA team standing. He was also a part of the school's third and eighth-place 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams.

"We were definitely going for a best time at the WPIAL event with hopes of improving on that for the state meet," Zacharda said.

"But with as hard as state qualifying is these days, you have to go for it at the WPIAL meet. The [qualifying] cut has gotten so difficult now, you need to go for it at WPIAL pretty much."

North Hills teammate Stephen Waters can attest to how hard it is to qualify for the PIAAs. The junior missed the top four (and automatic PIAA qualifying) by one spot in the 100-yard breaststroke. Waters also improved from the 21st seed in the 50-yard freestyle to take seventh place. The strong efforts by Kelly and Waters are indicative of the winning tradition set by Indians swimmers in recent years.

"We've seen quite a few WPIAL champions," Zacharda said. "These kids have come up and see their older teammates do it; that pushes them to be next."

Kelly recalls Matt Drozd winning the 50-yard freestyle in 2001 and set his sights on that goal since then. Now, he is using Drozd for a different type of motivation. As the PIAA championships loom next month, Kelly figures a school record -- held by Drose -- of 46.69 seconds in the 100-yard freestyle is worth shooting for. …

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