Led by a record-breaking performance from junior Nick Buckley at the District Six Meet almost two weeks ago and four-time state qualifier Haley Goldstone, Huntingdon will be sending six student/athletes to this week’s PIAA Class AA State Swimming Championships held today and Thursday inside Kinney Natatorium on the campus of Bucknell University in Lewisburg.
Also joining Buckley and Goldstone at Bucknell will be Andrew Edwards, Ben Atherton and Colby Grubb teaming with Buckley in the boys’ 200 free relay and Edwards, Atherton and Marshall Lowe joining Buckley in the boys’ 400 free relay.
Buckley advanced to the state meet last year in both the 50 and 100 freestyles based on his time after a pair of second place finishes at the district level. However, this season, Buckley shattered a 12-year old District Six Class AA record in winning the 50-yard free with a time of 21.10. The old record of 21.50 stood since 2006, set by Clearfield’s John Lytle.
Buckley’s effort also landed the Bearcat as the top-seed in the event for this week’s state competition. Marking a first in the Huntingdon program’s 23-year history. Neshannock sophomore Conner McBeth, out of District Seven, is Buckley’s closest competitor with a seeding time of 21.26.
“I have never had a top five seed at the state meet, let alone a top seed,” commented Huntingdon coach Melanie Varner. “The best we have ever had was David Landry, who was seeded 13th in both the 50 and 100 freestyles during the 2006-07 season. This just shows we have athletes who work hard and earn their way to being able to be the best in the state.
“Nick actually seemed more nervous for the district meet and said he felt more pressure being a top seed then. But, I think as we get closer to the state meet, he is getting more nervous. There has to be a lot of pressure being a top seed, but Nick has been handling it very well, or he just hasn’t shown it on the outside. I think this will make him swim better because he will be motivated to do well. He will also have the competition and he is one who thrives on competition.”
Buckley will also be competing in the 100 free this week as well, seeded sixth out of 32 swimmers with a time of 47.32. Belle Vernon sophomore Ian Shahan is the top seed with a 45.48.
The Class AA Meet began at 8 a.m. today and runs to approximately 9:40 a.m. with preliminaries in the Girls 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle, 200 Individual medley, 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 200 free relay. The preliminaries for the boys in those six events began at 10:50 a.m. and ran to 12:30 p.m. The top eight in each event advance to the Championship finals, with the next eight advancing to the consolation finals, beginning at 4:35 p.m. for the girls and 7:05 p.m. for the boys.
The Class AA Meet concludes Thursday with girls’ preliminaries in the 100 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 400 free relay, beginning at 8 a.m.. The boys’ prelims follow at 10:50 a.m. The girls championship and consolation heats begin at 6:25 p.m. and the boys follow at 8:50 p.m.
Goldstone will be marking her fourth time competing at the state level in the 50 free and third in the 100 free. Goldstone is seeded 15th in the 50 free with her district time of 24.46 and 29th in the 100 free with a time of 54.61. Mount Pleasant junior Heather Gardner, out of District Seven, is the top seed in the 50 free (23.24), while Karen Siddoway, a senior from District Seven’s Northgate High School is the top seed in the 100 free (50.88).
“I’m happy to see how Haley is seeded, especially since she has been dealing with medical issues all season,” continued Varner. “She will definitely be the most relaxed of the group, having been to states before. But, just getting here is still a big deal, so I’m sure there will still be some nervousness.”
The boys’ 200 free relay team of Buckley, Edwards, Atherton and Grubb is seeded 19th with its District Six winning time of 1:31.94, while the team of Buckley, Edwards, Atherton and Lowe in the boys’ 400 free relay is also seeded 19th with a time of 3:23.63. Shady Side Academy, out of District Seven is the top seed in the 200 free relay with a 1:27.81, while District Seven’s Indiana has the top seed time in the 400 free relay at 3:15.29.
“I’m happy to see the boys’ relays seeded where they are,” concluded Varner. “In the past, we’ve been seeded last or next to last, so this is a definite step up.”