Huntingdon junior Nick Buckley had a goal of just reaching the medal podium during the annual PIAA Class AA State Swimming Championships Wednesday at Bucknell University in Lewisburg. The Bearcat standout went into the 50-yard freestyle as Huntingdon’s first-ever PIAA top seed in any event and lived up to that honor by winning the program’s first state title with time of 21.22.
“This is just so awesome and I’m so happy for Nick,” commented Huntingdon head coach Melanie Varner. “Nick works so hard and he went out and earned it today in such a close race. I think he was more nervous during the morning’s prelims and feeling the pressure of being the top seed. He got off to a slow start in the prelims and his turn was not that great. But, he was able to fix those things and felt better going into the evening’s championship swim.”
Buckley earned the state’s top seed in the 50 free with a District Six Class AA record time of 21.10. However, Buckley’s time dropped to a 21.45 in Wednesday morning’s preliminaries. That time was second fastest to Neshannock’s Conner McBeth, a sophomore out of District Seven who turned in a prelim time of 21.36. McBeth was seeded second with a time of 21.26. McBeth matched his seeding time in the championship heat, but had to settle for the silver medal after Buckley touched first with a winning time of 21.22.
“This is just so amazing,” stated Buckley. “All of this just came to me pretty fast. I went into the season hoping for a district championship and then after that I heard of possibly being first at states. I was nervous going into the prelims, but after that, I knew that wasn’t my best time. I had some small mistakes that I was able to fix and then I was able to swim the way I know I can. Our 200 free relay team also had a great swim today as well and there were some great times in that swim as well.”
The excitement and energy of Buckley’s performance in the 50 free spilled over into the 200-yard freestyle relay as the Bearcat boys’ quartet of Andrew Edwards, Ben Atherton, Colby Grubb and Buckley placed 10th with a school record time of 1:30.67. The old record of 1:30.89 was set by the team of Nick McKim, Trent Stevens, Alex Tietjens and Zeb Fowler during the 2014-15 District Six Meet.
The boys’ 200 free relay team placed 14th in the morning preliminaries with a time of 1:31.90, which bettered the team’s district time of 1:31.94.
“I’m thrilled to see the relay team finish 10th after being seeded 14th,” continued Varner. “The team got a lot of extra motivation after Nick’s win and it was great to see them do so well. They actually missed ninth place by two-hundredths of a second, but they were excited to break the school record.”
Only the top eight individuals/relay teams earn medals in each event, but those in the consolation swims earn All-American recognition certificates.
Haley Goldstone was making her fourth appearance at the PIAA state meet Wednesday and placed 17th in the girls 50 freestyle with a time of 24.76, which was three-tenths off her district time of 24.46. Emma Wilson, a sophomore from District 10’s Grove City had the prelims fastest time of 23.14 and matched that effort to win the gold medal.
“Haley was disappointed she didn’t do better and was hoping for someone to scratch from the consolation swim so she could move up,” concluded Varner. “Haley works hard but her medical issues limit her swims. But, doing what she has done at the district meet for four years and getting to states is an accomplishment in itself.”
Both Buckley and Goldstone will compete in their respective 100 freestyle races today, along with the boys 400 freestyle relay team, which includes Buckley, Edwards, Atherton and Marshall Lowe.