State College junior Matt Brownstead woke up every morning since December and glanced at the number etched on the whiteboard hanging in the middle of his room — “19.58,” the state record in the 50 freestyle.
The Little Lion can erase that number once he returns home from Lewisburg. It’s not the record anymore — Brownstead has it now.
The junior phenom made history at Bucknell’s pool Friday night by winning gold and setting a state record in the 50 freestyle at the PIAA Class 3A Swimming and Diving Championships. He clocked an extraordinary time of 19.55 seconds, which also set a pool record, meaning no college swimmer there ever swam faster. (The winning time when Bucknell hosted its league championships last month was 20.08 seconds.)
“It feels amazing,” Brownstead said after besting the 8-year-old record set by Hershey’s David Nolan. “I’ve had the record in my sights all season, so it feels good to accomplish my goals with my time here.”
Before the finals race in the 50 freestyle, Brownstead’s top time in the event this season was 20-seconds flat. And he swam that Friday morning in the preliminaries. Lowering a season best in such a short-distance event by so much — 0.45 seconds — is exceedingly rare.
“You don’t see it,” State College coach Andrew Morrison said. “It just doesn’t happen. And I think he’s got one of the fastest times in the nation right now.”
Brownstead stood atop the podium Friday night for his first-ever career gold medal. He earned a silver last season as a sophomore and a bronze as a freshman, but he won his first gold in style.
“I was super happy when I saw the board,” Brownstead added. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Brownstead will compete again Saturday in the 100 freestyle on the final day of the PIAA championships. But he wasn’t State College’s only medalist Friday.
The boys’ 200 medley relay team also broke a school record and finished fifth. (The top eight medal at PIAAs.) The relay team — comprising Brownstead, Noah Witt, Foster Heasley and Payton Nicastro — technically broke the school record twice Friday.
In the preliminaries, the team set the record with a time of 1:32.25. Then, in the finals, it swam two-hundredths of a second faster.
In other events for the boys, Witt placed 26th in the IM (1:56.72) ,and the 200 freestyle relay team finished 14th (1:26.93). For the girls, no swimmer made the finals — but two set season- and personal-bests.
Colleen Adams set a personal record in the 200 freestyle for 26th with a 1:55.82, and the 200 freestyle relay team — comprising Grace Dangelo, Sarah Finton, Jodie Challis and Megan Doucette — improved their season best by more than two seconds in 1:41.06, good for 29th.
Other individuals to take part in states included Madelyn Koehle (200 IM, 31st, 2:13.55), Abbey Whipple (50 freestyle, 29th, 24.86), Dangelo (100 butterfly, 28th, 59.17) and Morgan Fusco (Diving, 24th, 139.55). The 200 medley relay team was 22nd in 1:49.75.
“They did extremely well,” Morrison said, referring to the girls. “(Saturday) should be good, too, with Megan Doucette and Colleen in the 500; they have a really good shot to come back from the finals. But only time will tell.”
The Class 3A swimming and diving championships will continue 8 a.m. Saturday. They’re scheduled to end by 9:35 p.m. Saturday, on the fourth and final day of the meet.