MECHANICSBURG — The heat and humidity at a pool can sometimes get to spectators, but you don’t usually hear high school swimmers complain about it.
“I actually felt like ... am I sweating right now?” Cocalico's Zach Sherk recalled of the moments leading up to the 50-yard freestyle. “Right before I'm up on the block, I'm like, ‘It's freezing in here, how am I sweating?’ ”
But it was less the heat and more nerves for the senior Friday at Cumberland Valley High School. Seeded first entering the boys 50 free in the District Three Class 2A championships, Sherk admitted he felt a little extra pressure.
It didn't show in the water, though. Sherk broke a school record en route to defending his title in the event, clocking in at 21.08 seconds. The medal was one of 29 that Lancaster County swimmers won on the day, a total that included two gold, six silver and three bronze.
Donegal's Jake Houck won the L-L's other gold medal, defending his title in the Class 2A 100 butterfly.
Cocalico, which finished the day in third place overall, opened the meet with an impressive silver medal-winning swim in the 200 medley relay. While the team of' Ryan Brubaker, Sherk, Nicolas Molignoni and Robert Gehman could not surpass eventual champion Bishop McDevitt, they kept things close, touching within 0.30 seconds.
The Eagles shed 2.4 seconds from their seed time to set a new school record.
“I figured it was going to be a close race, but not that close,” said Gehman, who swam the freestyle leg in a personal best 22.89. “I just dove in the water, I did what I usually do – just sprint as fast as I can. I kept seeing him out of the corner of my eye and I thought I had him, but Bishop McDevitt, those guys are really good. Coming in second next to them and having such a close time to them really shows how much our relay has improved and really shows how much our team has improved.”
Donegal's Ethan Shonk followed by winning silver in the 200 freestyle, before it was time for Sherk to return to the pool.
The senior took a narrow lead at the start before powering off the turn.
“I saw (McDevitt's Patrick Hemmingway) coming off the turn and, same thing as every other race, I'm like, ‘Here we go again, gotta put the head down, gotta go race,’ ” Sherk said. “It's always fun when you're in those close races. I love that atmosphere. And then to win, it felt amazing.”
Houck made sure the fly wasn't as close.
District 3 gold for Donegal’s Jake Houck. Senior (lane 4) runs away with the 100 fly, clocking in at 50.38. Teammate Grant Leibfried (lane 5) wins bronze in 54.34. #D3Swimming pic.twitter.com/RG72WVsdls— Diana Pugliese (@dianapugs) February 28, 2020
Although disappointed by his time, which went up nearly a half-second, Houck let the race the entire way and finished four seconds ahead of teammate Grant Leibfried. Leibfried settled for bronze, however, after an all-time best finish from Molignoni.
Swimming in the second of three heats, the senior dropped 2.87 seconds from his seed time.
“Before the meet I was like, ‘This is probably the last time I'm going to swim the 100 butterfly ever,’ ” Molignoni said. “So that was kind of my mindset, I just wanted to swim all out, as hard as I could. It didn't feel that fast, but it was definitely faster than I expected.”
Donegal added two silver medals in the 2A girls competition as Claire O'Neill finished second in the 200 IM and Jordynn Park matched her in the 100 fly. Northern Lebanon's Brookelle Anderson added the final Class 2A silver, shaving a second from her seed time in the 50 freestyle.
Class 3A swimmers added 14 more medals, including two bronze.
Penn Manor led the way in the boys meet, winning bronze with the team of Pan Kunyu, Wes Kendig, Sam Lutter and Andrew Pursel in the 200 freestyle relay. The same quartet swam to a fifth-place medal in the 200 medley relay ahead of Manheim Township, while Kendig added a fifth-place finish in the fly.
The Comets and Township finished tied for fifth place in the boys standings after the first day of competition, while the Township girls lead the L-L in eighth place.
Gabby Stramara earned 16 of the Blue Streaks' 47 points, winning bronze in the fly. The sophomore kept the pace in the middle of the pool, but there was no catching Muhlenberg's Sydney Gring, who won the event by a second.
Two district records were also broken in the Class 3A championships. Daniel Boone's Chris Guiliano bested last year's time in the 200 freestyle with a 1:38.80 finish, while Govenor Mifflin's Emma Steckiel snapped a 15-year-old record in the 50 freestyle (22.98).
The District Three championships conclude Saturday at Cumberland Valley. The Class 2A boys open the competition at 10 a.m., followed by the 2A girls at 12:15 p.m. the 3A boys at 3 p.m. and the 3A girls at 5:30 p.m.