LEWISBURG — A year ago, the Bellefonte swim team got someone on the podium for the first time and put up a respectable team score.
Thursday night at Bucknell’s Kinney Natatorium, the Red Raiders had their second state champion in as many nights and were briefly in first place as a team.
While Bellefonte finished third, it was nonetheless a historic night for the Red Raiders at the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships.
Andrew Rosenberger became Bellefonte’s first individual state champion in boys’ swimming as numerous records fell for the program.
“That’s what I’ve been looking for the last four years,” Rosenberger said. “To get first, that really means a lot.”
Rosenberger won the 100-yard breaststroke in 58.56 seconds, breaking his own school record and beating Boiling Springs’ Shane Hallett by 0.08 seconds.
The Red Raiders had 138 points to take third place, while Salisbury won with 151 and Franklin was second at 143.
“That’s ridiculous,” Rosenberger said. “Considering last year I was the first person ever to get into the top eight. Coming from that to this year – third in the team score, whole bunch of people scoring, getting on the podium, it’s ridiculous. I couldn’t be more proud of the whole team. Everyone did fantastic this week.”
Rosenberger became the program’s second state champion, following the 400 medley relay team the night before with Rosenberger, Isaac Thomas, Colton Schnars and Frank Aberegg.
“I’m excited to be a state champ,” Thomas said. “I’m more excited for Andrew individually in the breaststroke. It was great. It’s been a great week.”
Rosenberger was third after the morning preliminaries, touching the wall in 59.56.
Bellefonte led Salisbury by one point and Franklin by three in the team race heading into the final event, the 400 freestyle relay, and that alone brought plenty of excitement to the Raiders and their fans when the standings were posted on the scoreboard.
“That is cool to say we were the leaders up until that last relay,” head coach Lisa Newman said. “We’ve never been first ever at states, so even for a short period of time that felt pretty good. But the end results are still wonderful and we couldn’t be more proud.”
Last year, Rosenberger had made history by finishing third in the breaststroke, and the Bellefonte team put up a respectable 34 points to finish 21st.
“It’s great,” said Thomas, who anchored the final relay. “We only have six guys going in. Some of these teams have a whole lot more than six, so I thought we did fantastic.”
The Red Raiders were out of contention fairly early in the relay final, and Salisbury and Franklin finished 1-2 in the event to pass Bellefonte.
Thomas, Rosenberger, Jordan Newman and Matthew Horner turned in a time of 3:16.78, breaking the school record.
It also was a tough turnaround for Rosenberger, who swam in the breaststroke in the next-to-last event, then had to stand on the podium for his medal before a couple brief laps to stay loose. He recovered well — breaking the school record in the 100 free with his lead leg of the relay in 48.88.
“I was thinking, ‘This is my last high school race ever. Make it count,’” said Rosenberger, who is weighing his college options. “I was just trying to do the best I possibly could, get the best time I could for the team.”
The foursome slipped into the last spot in the A finals in qualifying with their then-school-record time of 3:18.28.
“All we were trying to do was not get last,” Rosenberger said. “We knew we were ahead by one point in the team score going into that event. It would have been cool to win, but we were trying not to get last in that one. We knew what was going to happen.”
In other races, Thomas also was 11th in the 500 freestyle, leading the consolation finals for the first few laps before finishing third in the race and breaking his own school record with a 4:45.79. He had set the mark during the morning preliminaries in 4:46.72, missing a spot in the A finals by one place and 0.48 seconds.
Schnars was 10th in the 100 backstroke in 54.10, also breaking his school record he had set in the morning preliminaries of 54.36.
On the girls’ side, Katie Scordato was the lone Lady Raider to make the evening finals Thursday, finishing 11th in the 100 breaststroke. Bellefonte finished 31st with 18 points. Villa Maria Academy easily won with 237 points, which was 112 points better than second-place York Suburban.
Scordato was just a half-body length behind the leader during her consolation final to take third in the race in 1:08.08.
Scordato, who is still undecided on her college destination where she hopes to continue swimming, was 10th in the morning preliminaries in 1:07.73, breaking a five-year-old school record formerly held by Kate Wilt.
“It’s bittersweet and I’m sad to be done,” said Scordato, who was seventh in the 200 individual medley on Wednesday. “… But I’m glad I made it back for night swims. A lot of people don’t get to do that so that’s exciting.”
While she was the only Lady Raider in the pool during Thursday’s evening races, she was happy to be cheering on the boys.
“We’re trying to keep the hype up,” Scordato said. “We’re excited to watch them swim, see where the boys stand team-wise. The atmosphere is still positive and exciting.”
In the morning preliminaries, the Lady Raider 400 free relay team was 20th, with Cydnei Crust, Deborah Armstrong, Gwen Lowery and Scordato turning in a time of 3:48.06. Also, Newman was 19th in the boys’ 100 backstroke in 55.25.
It ended the year for the Bellefonte swim team, and it was definitely a happy ending.
“I came here my freshman year, I remember looking up at the kids and I was like, ‘Wow, one day I hope I can be in that position,” Rosenberger said. “Today’s the day. It’s a great feeling and the dream finally came true.”
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Lisa Newman said. “That was the best team Bellefonte has had ever. To have that amazing talent of seniors lead this team throughout this entire meet, it’s kind of sad to see them go but they definitely earned it.”