Just like the weather, the competition will be heating up this week at Bucknell University.
The state’s top swimmers and divers, including 38 entries from the Lancaster-Lebanon League, are set to take over Kinney Natatorium for the PIAA championships.
The four-day meet begins with Class 3A swimming Wednesday and Thursday, followed by the Class 2A qualifiers on Friday and Saturday. Competition will begin with preliminary heats at 8 a.m. each day — with the girls following the boys — before the top 16 finishers return for the evening consolations and finals.
Here are five things to keep an eye on as the area’s 31 swimmers, five relay teams and two divers try to earn one final medal.
The L-L boasts a pair of No. 1 seeds, both in the Class 2A 100-yard breaststroke.
Cocalico’s Zach Sherk powered past the competition to win gold in a District Three-record time of 56.53 seconds two weeks ago. That puts the senior more than a second under the pace that won him state bronze last year, and nearly two seconds ahead of this year’s competitors.
Donegal’s Jordynn Park also cruised in the girls’ event, winning district gold by 2.24 seconds. The junior, who’s already two seconds faster than the pace that earned her eighth place last year, only holds a 0.41-second lead heading into Saturday’s event.
Sherk is also seeded second in the 50 freestyle (21.08) and Park is seventh in the 100 butterfly (56.91), both of which will be held on Friday.
Park wasn’t the only Donegal swimmer earning gold at districts. Jake Houck took the 100 fly and the 100 freestyle, earning the No. 2 seed in the fly and the No. 3 seed in the freestyle.
Despite a four-second victory in the fly and a one-second win in the freestyle, the senior wasn’t happy with his times, which increased following new L-L records at the league championships. Houck admitted to suffering from fatigue, but now, with two weeks of rest and tappering, he could see another drop in time.
Blue Streaks vs. Comets
Manheim Township and Penn Manor finished as the top two boys teams in the section and the league before finishing fourth and 10th, respectively, at districts. They’ll have one more chance to face off in the opening 200 medley relay, where both squads will swim in the second of four heats.
After finishing fifth at districts (1:37.51), Penn Manor will be in lane one. Township, which finished sixth (1:37.75) , will swim in lane eight.
Penn Manor’s bronze medal-winning 200 freestyle relay (1:27.83) earned the 18th seed. Township claimed the 16th seed in the 400 freestyle relay (3:12.90) after dropping almost five seconds to finish fourth at districts.
A pair of seniors will aim for gold when the 3A girls diving championship begins at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
Twenty-four divers qualified for the state field, including McCaskey’s Evie Altland, who won District Three silver. After finishing 20th last year, she’ll be the 19th diver stepping onto the board this week, followed by Elizabethtown’s Kierstan Lentz. The district bronze medalist, Lentz will be making her fourth consecutive appearance at states and looking to improve on last year’s 14th-place finish.
Records within reach
Nine swimmers enter states with seed times within one second of PIAA records, including Sherk, who sits 0.89 seconds away from the mark in the breaststroke.
In 3A, Governor Mifflin’s Emma Steckiel is just a quarter-second behind the record pace in the 50 freestyle, while State College’s Matt Brownstead is 0.29 seconds off the record he set in the 50 freestyle last year.