UNIVERSITY PARK — For 18-year-old Matthew Horner, winning the 50-yard freestyle at Friday’s PIAA District 6 Class AA swimming championships at McCoy Natatorium was easy.
“I felt the kid coming on my left,” Horner said. “But I just pushed it a bit harder and had a nice finish.”
Horner is a senior freestyle specialist at Bellefonte High School, and helped locked up two events for the Red Raiders’ boys team Saturday: the 50 freestyle — where he swam a 22.50 — and the 200 yard freestyle relay, where he swam lead off for the second year in a row.
“I felt pretty good,” Horner said. “I wasn’t sure coming off this week because my arms felt pretty tired, but yesterday we took it down a notch and I felt pretty good swimming.”
Coming into the meet, Bellefonte’s boys were trying to defend its District 6 Class AA title, which it won in a landslide last year, beating second-place Central Cambria by more than 200 points. After one day, the squad is in prime position to repeat.
“We’re in a good spot,” said Red Raiders coach Lisa Newman. “It’s a little competitive as a team. Picked up some points where we needed to today. A couple of events we fell off a little bit, but our second day is our stronger day. It should pan out ok for us.”
Part of the reason Newman is so confident is that Horner, who will swim for the club team at Penn State next year, is swimming the 100 yard freestyle and the 400 yard freestyle relay for the Red Raiders. Horner is seeded first in the 100 free with a 51.19, which is 2.15 seconds than his closest competitor, and the Bellefonte boys’ team is seeded first in the relay by an astounding 10.65 seconds.
However, Friday was all about Horner’s performance in the 50 free. His time was 0.15 seconds faster than his seed time, which Newman said was his “best time ever,” and blew the rest of the competition out of the water. Nobody came within half a second of Horner, which in a 50-yard freestyle sprint is a lot of time.
For Horner, winning the 50 free is nothing unusual: his record in that race this year is almost perfect.
“The only kid I’ve lost to this year is Michael Spencer from Clearfield, and I’ve raced him twice,” Horner said.
Horner, Bellefonte, and the rest of the teams in Class AA and AAA, including AAA juggernaut State College, will return to McCoy Natatorium Saturday afternoon, starting at 2 p.m. It will be preceded by Class AA and AAA diving, which will begin at 11 a.m.