That was the universal feeling of all of the PIAA District 6 swimmers after their events on Saturday.
And on the second straight day of competition in the AA-AAA Championships, they were allowed to feel a little tired. Each swimmer left everything they had in the pool, and left Centre County feeling proud in the Penn State McCoy Natatorium.
In Class AAA, the State College boys’ team finished first with 488 points and Central Mountain was second with 206 points. The girls team echoed the dominant performance with a winning 500 points. Central Mountain was once again second with 192 points.
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“It’s always nice to win championships, but mostly it’s about kids doing their best,” Little Lion coach Ryan Sprang said. “We wanted them to take it to a whole other level today and I think they did and their performance reflected that.”
In Class AA, the Bellefonte boys brought home their fifth consecutive title, and first under head coach Lauren Randazzo. They finished with 195 points, 22.5 points ahead of second-place Westmont-Hilltop. The girls finished fifth with 118 points, Ligonier Valley won with 211.50.
“It’s awesome to carry on what Bellefonte swimming stands for, just swimming with your heart and going all out for it.” Randazzo said. “We have a small team on both sides so it just speaks to their handwork in being able to score all of those points.”
State College’s Fiona Vashaw and Martt Morris both opened up the meet with a victory in the 100 yard freestyle. Vashaw also finished with her career best time, the 53.16 finish beat her previous season record by almost a second. Teammates Hannah Finton and and Harly Stuyvesant finished close behind. Morris was flanked by teammates Anders Sonsteby and Joseph Clark.
In the 500 freestyle, Centre County proved its dominance. The field was led by Kelsey Bittel, Tobias Van Dyke and Peter Forstmeier.
Lady Little Lion, Bittel found the lead in her fifth lap and continued to dominate with a 5:14.09 finish. Four seconds faster than both the second place, teammate Lilly Riddle, and her season best.
Van Dyke found himself breaking yet another meet record with his qualifying time alone, a 4:35.97.
“I knew I could, I just had to actually do it,” Van Dyke said.
His early lead was lengthened with every stroke. His time of 4:36.06 broke the 2006 record of Ben Ryan, also from State College. Ryan’s time was 4:39.64.
Teammate Dave Rovansek finished second, about 15 seconds after Van Dyke.
St. Joseph’s Peter Forstmeier also made history in the 500. With a 5:01.36, he became the school’s first swimming double state qualifier and District Champion. On Friday, he won the 200 yard IM in 2:05.58. On Saturday, he was victorious in the 500 freestyle with a 5:01.36.
Both times were career records for the sophomore. His previous best times were 2:14.53 and 5:13.11, for the 200 and 500 respectively.
As the only Wolf swimmer, Forstmeier practices both by himself at the YMCA and with the Nittany Lion Aquatic Club, a club coached by State College’s Sprang.
“There’s a lot more to come,” Forstmeir said, smiling at the thought. “I’m really looking forward to states to see how that goes.”
Chance Foster was Bellefonte’s only individual winner on Saturday. On Friday, the senior was part of the winning 200 medley relay team, but Saturday was his day to shine. He finished first in the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.97, a career best.
“I started swimming in ninth grade so it’s really crazy to see how all of my hard work has paid off.” he said, before adding that his goal for states was a top-16 finish.
Before his race he explained that his coaches told him to “Just stay relaxed, have a good feel for the water, and just stay out of your head, because it’s all there. I just had to believe in myself and I definitely did.”
This will be Foster’s first year competing at the state tournament as an individual.
Other State College District Champions from Saturday include: Juliet Garrigan (100 backstroke), Grace Tothero (100 breaststroke), Tally Brown (diving), Morgan Fusco (diving), Nick Brooks (diving), Filip Turecky (100 backstroke), Mikey Challis (100 breaststroke), and both 400-freestyle relay teams.
Brown broke her meet record from last year by 41.4 points with a score of 480.2.
With the meet complete, coaches and athletes will look toward the future.
Sprang will look to make instill confidence in his teams.
“We’re looking forward to making a bigger impact at states. I think the biggest thing is the kids truly believing that they belong at that level, competing with the best teams in the state, and really making an impact. We’ve had the ability to do that in the past, but it all came down to confidence. So that’s why we had a group of swimmers, this year that didn’t even rest or shave for this meet. We’re gearing to peak at states. Knowing that that’s still to come is exciting,” he said.
Randazzo echoed Sprang statements and said she sees great things in her team’s future.
“During states, I just want them to carry this momentum as they move forward. I tell them to keep that mindset that if you have a lane you have a chance. And they all really have a chance to do something great,” she said.