Before the season, Bellefonte junior Colton Schnars set his sights on a top-eight finish in the 100-yard backstroke at the PIAA Championships after finishing 10th last year.
In the Class AA preliminaries Saturday morning, Schnars achieved his goal, placing sixth with a time of 53.23 seconds to advance to the finals.
But he wasn’t satisfied. It was time to set a new goal for Saturday night’s race at Bucknell’s Kinney Natatorium.
“I say now, since I got closer,” Schnars said, “my goal is definitely to get to the podium and get top-six.”
He accomplished that goal by placing sixth, improving his qualifying time with a 53.14 swim in the finals.
Schnars was the lone area swimmer with a chance to reach the podium Saturday. The Bellefonte 400 freestyle relay team of Schnars, Jordan Newman, Grey Rockey and Matthew Horner qualified for the consolation finals with a time of 3:22.56 to finish 16th in the preliminaries. The same group took 10th place in the 200 freestyle relay Friday.
Horner finished 26th in the 100 freestyle (49.75), Newman was 21st in the 100 backstroke (55.50) and Rockey was 31st in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.69). In the girls’ Class AA preliminaries, Bellefonte’s Miranda Fedor finished 31st in the 100 backstroke (1:03.42) and Penns Valley’s Megan Duck was 29th in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.59).
Red Raiders coach Lisa Newman was proud of her team’s overall performance.
“All year, they’ve worked so hard for these moments,” Newman said. “And for both of our relays to make it back in the consolation finals says a lot about how hard they’ve worked and just everything they want. They really wanted this chance to swim again.”
Schnars has been looking forward to this opportunity since his 10th-place finish in the 100 backstroke a year ago — when he set a new school record in the preliminaries at 54.36 to advance to the consolation finals and broke the record again in 54.10.
Schnars reset the record and captured this season’s District 6 championship with a time of 53.08.
A long turn cost Schnars a shot at breaking his own record in the preliminaries Saturday, but his time of 53.23 was good enough to advance to the finals for the first time in three tries.
Schnars finished 16th as a freshman.
“To see that progression is really cool, and like I said, he loves competing,” Lisa Newman said of Schnars. “This is what he works all year for, and it’s nice to see him get on the podium and be up there with the rest of those guys.”
“It’s definitely not as nerve-wracking as it was my freshman year,” Schnars said. “I kind of help my teammates out more now instead of having people help me.”
That experience showed in Bellefonte’s relays.
Lisa Newman said her relay team’s been swimming together for a long time. And the group is making the most of its final run with seniors Jordan Newman and Horner.
The Red Raiders secured the last spot in the consolation finals in the 400 freestyle relay with their 16th-place finish in the preliminaries.
“It’s a pretty big accomplishment,” Schnars said. “We all wanted to get to the consolation finals.”
They did even better in those finals. While other teams could not better their qualifying times, Bellefonte made a huge improvement. The quartet swam 3:19.99, vaulting up to place 11th.
Thanks to Schnars’ finish in the backstroke and the relay performance, the Red Raiders vaulted to 15th in the team race. Bellefonte tied Fairview with 41 points. Mars Area took the team crown with 153 points, 19 better than Trinity.
Neither Bellefonte nor Penns Valley accumulated points in the girls’ team race.
Villa Marie won the girls title with 220 points.