UNIVERSITY PARK — The last time Penns Valley sent a swimmer to the PIAA Championships, Megan Duck was in elementary school.
The last time a female swimmer from the school in Spring Mills went to the state meet was the year Duck was born.
The drought is over for the always-small Rams swim program.
“I am ecstatic,” said Duck, a junior. “That is going to be awesome.”
While Duck will be the lone representative from Penns Valley, Centre County had two other schools with big afternoons in the second day of competition at the District 6 Championships at Penn State’s McCoy Natatorium.
Bradley Gibble set a pair of district records, among the four set by Little Lion swimmers, as State College will send a huge contingent of athletes to the state meet as both the boys and girls won district titles in Class AAA.
“Winning never gets old,” Little Lion coach Ryan Sprang said. “I’m not even quite sure how many. That’s not something I keep track of. We just come in, try to do our best times and have a great meet.”
The official numbers: The boys have won 37 straight district titles, while the girls picked up their 35th crown overall.
Bellefonte’s boys also walked away with the Class AA district crown on the strength of seven wins, while the Lady Red Raiders had two wins and took fourth as a team.
Duck is the first Penns Valley representative at the state meet since Ian Yarger was in the 200-yard individual medley in 2004. The last Lady Ram to compete at the state meet was Stephanie Brooks, who competed in the same event as Duck – the 100 breaststroke – and also is a family friend.
As the lone representative from a program that has all of three members, with another girl and a boy, Duck knew she was alone for the blue-and-white but still had plenty of support.
“I’m the only swimmer from my school here today, but I have so much support from so many swimmers on other teams,” said Duck, who was fourth in the 200 IM on Friday. “It’s awesome.”
Without a pool at her school, the Madisonburg resident swims frequently with the Lady Red Raiders at the Bellefonte YMCA, and also trains at the Lock Haven YMCA and during the summer at the community pool in Millheim.
Swimming for eight years, the hard work resulted in a time of 1 minute, 12.68 seconds to earn her first trip to Bucknell’s Kinney Natatorium.
The Class AAA state finals will be held March 12-13, while the Class AA meet will be held March 14-15. All of the winners from the last two days earned berths, with an additional two divers in Class AA and one extra diver in Class AAA.
Also, the top eight times from district championships from around the state who were not winners also will pick up spots at the state meet. State College won eight titles among the boys and 10 for the girls.
“We definitely want to make some noise at the state meet,” Sprang said. “It’s the biggest meet of the year for the high school season. We train hard so we can come here (to districts) and swim fast and then go to Bucknell and swim even faster. We’ll have our work cut out for us. There’s some amazing swimming around the state. It’s amazing how high the bar has been raised across the state.”
Gibble set the district record in the 100 backstroke on Saturday, with his time of 51.18, to go with his new standard in the 200 IM he posted on Friday of 1:54.93. Both times broke the record of former Little Lion Alex Hillsley set last year.
“It’s been a good day,” Gibble said, after also helping the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams earn wins. The medley relay quartet of Gibble, Michael Feffer, Ian Schrock and Carter Hardy also set a district mark in 1:36.17.
“It’s fun for them to break records and to see their names in the programs,” Sprang said. “To know that they surpassed previously and all the great swimmers.”
Gibble, who is headed to Columbia, where he plans to study engineering and swim, is looking forward to another shot at a medal at Bucknell.
“I think I’ll have a better shot than last year,” Gibble said. “I’m resting more for this year than I did last year for states. I thinking I could get two top-eight in my individual events, and our relays are looking promising.”
Other Little Lion winners included Kris Bittel (200 free), Hardy (50 free, 100 free), Ben Gingher (1-meter diving), Will Benner (500 free). The winning 400 free relay also included Schrock, Matt Fritsch and Hardy.
State College finished with 521 team points, far ahead of runner-up Hollidaysburg’s 215.5 for the girls. On the boys’ side, the Little Lions’ margin over the Tigers was 523-210.
“For years to come I think we’ll be able to win districts,” Gibble said. “We have a good younger swimmers and underclassmen. They’re going to be good even when we’re gone.”
Winners on the girls’ side included Kate Cooper (200 IM, 100 butterfly), Fiona Vashaw (50 free), Sam Washell (1-meter diving), Juliet Garrigan (500 free), Courtney Quinn (100 backstroke) qand Kirsten Hillsley (100 breaststroke). Cooper’s time of 57.32 in the 100 fly also broke the district record.
State College also swept the relays with Sarah Koberna, Hillsley, Cooper and Vashaw in the 200 medley; Harley Stuyvesant, Garrigan, Hannah Finton and Vashaw in the 200 free in a district-record of 1:39.39; and Cooper, Garrigan, Stuyvesant and Finton in the 400 freestyle.
Bellefonte defended its boys’ title with a strong second day for the meet to rack up 271 points to Richland’s 162.
The effort was led by Colton Schnars’ school-record time of 53.08 in the 100 backstroke.
“It was a really exciting meet,” coach Lisa Newman said. “They all swam so well. I can’t complain about any races. I’m pretty sure every single person had a personal best time in some event this weekend. I can’t really ask for more than that.”
Other Red Raider winners included Schnars (200 IM), Matthew Horner (50 free, 100 free) and Grey Rockey (100 breaststroke). Also, the teams of Horner, Rockey, Schnars and Jordan Newman grabbed wins in the 200 and 400 free relays.
The Raiders originally planned to swim in the 200 medley relay instead, but the time turned in by that foursome in their last regular-season meet convinced Lisa Newman to alter her plans.
“They should be competitive at states,” Newman said. “That’s we were shooting for, for the boys. Honestly, they were fast all season.”
The Lady Raiders took fourth as a team with 126 points. Westmont Hilltop won with 230.
Bellefonte got wins from Gwen Lowery and Miranda Fedor. Fedor was first in the 100 backstroke, while Lowery won the 200 IM on Friday.
“If she feels good now, we just have to build her back up and bring her back down,” Newman said of Lowery. “… I think states, that’s overwhelming. I think when you go in with a good seed time, or you’re very confident leaving districts, that’s only going to help you mentally.”