Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Nine Catapult from the Pool to the Podium in State Championships

Like a pop star rushing to change attire between performances of hit songs in concert, Trinity’s Madelyn Blough was under the tick of the clock between two performances of her own at the PIAA State Swimming Championships.

Her arena was the Kinney Natatorium at Bucknell University, and her routines centered on the 200 freestyle and the 100 fly.

After pacing 1:57.87 to receive her eighth-place medal in the Girls’ 2A free, Blough wasted no time hurrying back to Coach Ben Slate and warming up for her showing in the 100 fly. The two races were separated by mere minutes, with only the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it girls’ 50-yard freestyle between Blough’s events.

With precious time to catch her breath and mentally prepare after the free, Blough was back in the pool for the fly, this time finishing tenth, two spots ahead of her seed time, at 58.97.

“I just try to give it all in my first race and then whatever the result is, I use it to motivate myself in my second race,” Blough said of managing the quick turnaround between events. “It also means being more efficient and focused in the warmup pool.”

“I feel like I did pretty good in the fly, especially coming straight off the free,” she said. “I was a little disappointed in my time in the free, so I tried to use that as a motivator in the fly.”

When it was all said and done, the sophomore said she was pleased with her performance at states.

“I’m really just thankful that I had the opportunity to swim here today, and proud that I was able to get a state medal, since it was a goal for me this year,” she said.

Also in the girls’ 100 fly, Lancaster Catholic junior Addie Elliott outpaced her preliminary time by more than a second to finish seventh with a time of 58.12. In the 100 backstroke, Elliott took a sixth-place medal with a time of 57.70.

Elliott and Blough were among nine from Diocesan high schools to earn spots on the state podium for their performances in the pool, where they competed Friday and Saturday, March 15 and 16.

Trinity teammates gave solid performances as well over the two-day championships. James Gaudion earned his first individual state medal after breaking his school’s time record in the 100 backstroke with a time of 52.89 to earn the eighth spot on the podium. Josiah Garber swam a 21.97 in the Boys’ 2A 50 freestyle for an eighth-place finish as well. And, Gaudion and Garber joined Max Jones and Timmy Gardner in capturing eighth in the Boys’ 2A 200 medley relay with a time of 1:39.96.

The District 3 Boys’ 2A team champions, Bishop McDevitt carried their postseason momentum to the state podium as well, with a trio of swimmers earning their first individual state medals.

In diving, Cayden McDonnell topped his District 3 championship performance by more than 24 points to a score of 353.80 for eighth place in the state. On the other end of the pool, Crusader teammates and fellow district champs RJ Duffy placed eighth in the 200 IM with a time of 1:59.41 and Isaac Hancock tied for fourth in the 50 freestyle at 21.36.

Standing next to his mom, who is also an assistant coach for the team, Hancock smiled wide with his fourth-place medal.

“I’m happy about my time and that I placed. Yes, it wound up being a tie for fourth, but I’m just so happy we didn’t have to do a swim-off; I’m so incredibly tired,” he said, having also competed less than an hour before in the 200 free relay with teammates RJ Duffy, Ian Shyk and Bradley Warner; they placed 10th overall.

The state finals capped off a successful high school career for Hancock and the end of an era at Bishop McDevitt, where his last name has been on the swim team roster since 2017, along with his brothers Jonah, Lucas and Zachary.

Isaac will follow Jonah and Lucas to Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg next fall.

“I’m looking forward to following my brothers here soon. I’m really excited for that,” Isaac said. “Swimming is a big part of our family.”

Virginia Hancock smiled proudly at her youngest son, with a hint of bittersweet emotion now that his high school career was concluding.

“Certainly being a parent and a coach at the same time is different in that you’re not just cheering for your own kid,” Virginia said. “Once you’re in the swimming world, all the swimmers become your kids because you’ve watched them grow up, even when they were on other teams.”

“For so many years, there was always a next step. Jonah and Lucas went on to swim at the Mount and Isaac will be joining them. Jonah finished his college career in February, Isaac is finishing his high school career, so it’s very bittersweet this weekend,” she said. “One of the kids on the team asked me if I was coming back next year, and it’s really hit me that I won’t have one of my boys on the team next year. But I’m willing to be there for whatever it is that they’ll need.”

“Sharing this experience with my mom has been so special,” Isaac said. “She’s been there ever since I started swimming at age two, and she’s always been my number one supporter. She’s always been there for me, and that means the world. I couldn’t have a greater coach or supporter than my mom.”

(Swimming photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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