State College swimmer Matt Brownstead — who won another gold Saturday night — wasn’t the only Little Lion to earn all-state honors on the final day of the PIAA Class 3A Swimming and Diving Championships.
Two of his teammates, Noah Witt and Foster Heasley, also joined him at Bucknell’s pool as all-state selections based on their Saturday performances. Brownstead, who broke a state record Friday in the 50 freestyle, earned his second gold medal of the week Saturday in the 100 freestyle with a winning time of 43.71 seconds — one-tenth of a second faster than the runner-up.
Heasley swam the sixth-fastest time in the 100 breaststroke, and Witt the seventh-fastest in the 100 backstroke. But because they didn’t qualify among the top-eight finalists and swam in their respective “B” finals heats, they both technically finished ninth at states. Still, Heasley’s 56.82 and Witt’s 50.20 proved to be lifetime bests.
“I’m extremely proud,” coach Andrew Morrison said. “They swam great. They swam really, really well.”
In the boys’ team race, State College finished seventh out of the 50-plus teams that qualified. The Little Lions had 92 points, compared to state champ North Allegheny’s 279.
“To me, it’s the best finish I’ve had for a boys’ team,” Morrison said. “They proved themselves. We’re looking to do a little better next year, as well.”
Other State College boys to compete Saturday included Anders Sonsteby (500 freestyle, 29th, 4:50.48), Payton Nicastro (100 breaststroke, 24th, 58.76) and Andy Ladrido (1-meter diving, 20th, 248.05). The 400 freestyle relay team also competed but was one of three teams to be disqualified after an early takeoff.
The State College girls weren’t able to medal Saturday, but they gained valuable experience for future PIAAs. In fact, no girl who took part in an individual event Saturday was a senior. Most were underclassmen.
Lily Bang was one of just six freshmen to compete in the 100 backstroke; she finished 32nd in 1:03.80. The Lady Little Lions also missed the finals in two events by about two seconds, Colleen Adams (500 freestyle, 19th, 5:10.26) and the 400 freestyle relay team (20th, 3:37.98).
Other participants on the girls’ end included Abbey Whipple (100 freestyle, 29th, 53.93), Megan Doucette (500 freestyle, 25th, 5:12.38) and Madelyn Koehle (100 breaststroke, 32nd, 1:08.96).
“The (youth) shows we’ve got some pretty good talent in State College,” Morrison said. “Their improvement, from the beginning of the season until now, was pretty dramatic.”
Overall, State College finished with three medals — all from the boys — during PIAAs. Brownstead earned gold in the 50 freestyle Friday and the 100 freestyle Saturday, and the 200 medley relay team placed fifth Friday. (That relay team also finished with all-state honors, while the 200 freestyle relay team earned all-state honorable mention.)
In Class 2A, which took place Wednesday and Thursday, Penns Valley’s Sophie Gerhart medaled twice. She finished fourth in the 200 IM (2:06.69) and tied for third in the 100 butterfly (57.14).
But the highlight of the week — and the season — was Brownstead’s memorable 19.55 time in the 50 freestyle, which demolished an 8-year-old state record while also setting a pool and school record. It’s currently one of the fastest high school times in the nation, and Brownstead still has one more year left, as a current junior.
He’s already looking forward to next year — and another record-breaking performance.
“I always strive to get better,” Brownstead said Saturday night. “Getting another record in the 50 would be my goal next year. Freshman year, I said I want to go to 19.2, so that’s still my goal. And, in the 100, I’m not sure quite yet. But I’ll be thinking of something.”