State College’s Carter Hardy gave his teammates a reason to stick around at the PIAA Class AAA Swimming and Diving Championships on Saturday night.
Hardy was the lone Little Lion to qualify for the finals on the last day of the championships, making the consolation final in the 100-yard breastroke.
But the Little Lions had another reason to stay until the final event finished at Bucknell University.
“We were here to support Carter and his final swim,” State College coach Ryan Sprang said, “but also to watch the great swimming going on and to be motivated to get better and be there ourselves.”
The State College boys’ recorded a team score of 12 points to tie with Bangor and Stroudsburg for 33rd in a 55-team field, while the girls’ team finished 44th out of 57 schools with 11 points. La Salle College won the boys’ title with 302 points, and Hershey took the girls’ championship with 262 points.
Hardy highlighted the Little Lions’ performance, winning the consolation final in the 200 individual medley Friday and taking 16th in the 100 breaststroke Saturday night.
Hardy finished 12th in the 100 breaststroke preliminaries with a time of 57.87 seconds to qualify for the consolation final. He said he felt sluggish in his last race and placed eighth in the consolations — 16th overall — with a time of 58.42.
“My 100 breast wasn’t exactly what I hoped for, but I can’t measure this high school experience in two days,” Hardy said. “I have to measure it in the four years that I’ve been here.”
The senior overcame a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last year to finish his career at the PIAA championships. Hardy, who also plays football, started this season focused on the sprints rather than the breaststroke, but Sprang said plans changed as he got stronger in the middle of the year.
“Once he started getting his swimming legs back underneath him,” Sprang said, “he started to feel confident and he was just working hard and he was racing well.”
Hardy broke his District 6 Class AAA record in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 57.50 seconds.
He said his teammates — freshman Mikey Challis, senior Joseph Liechty and sophomore Brian Nordgren — who also competed in the 100 breaststroke Saturday contributed to his success.
Challis finished in 59.72 to tie for 23rd with North Penn’s Harrison Friel and Franklin Regional’s Tyler Stevenson. Liechty took 26th (1:00.08), and Nordgren finished 27th (1:00.27).
“I expect four guys back here next year in the same event,” Hardy said. “I expect us to be a dynasty in that event.”
It will be crucial to State College taking another step toward its goal of challenging the top teams.
“I’d like to have multiple people here in every event,” Hardy said. “That way we can compete with some of the greater teams here and hopefully make a run towards the top shortly.”
In other boys’ events Saturday, Jon Cather took 28th in the 500 freestyle (4:48.34), Will Benner was 29th in the 500 freestyle (4:49.85), Seth Erdley placed 31st in the 100 backstroke (54.84) and Matt Morris was 32nd in the 100 freestyle (49.29).
The Little Lions’ 400 freestyle relay team of Tobias Van Dyke, Filip Turecky, Liechty and Cather finished 23rd with a time of 3:20.82.
In the girls’ events Saturday, Fiona Vashaw finished 23rd in the 100 freestyle (53.40), Juliet Garrigan was 25th in the 100 backstroke (59.17) and Kirsten Hillsley placed 26th in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.13).
Grace Tothero was 29th in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.50), and Hannah Finton took 29th in the 500 freestyle (5:19.60) to round out the Lady Little Lions’ individual results.
State College’s 400 freestyle relay team finished 21st. The team of Kate Cooper, Harly Stuyvesant, Macy Blake and Garrigan recorded a time of 3:39.42.
Sprang said State College had its largest group of competitors at the PIAA meet since his first year in 2012-13.
“I feel like we’re a team on the rise,” Sprang said. “And we’re trying to get to that next level and being here competing and starting to believe that we belong here with the best teams in the state — not just in our district but here at the state level.
“We’re making strides towards that and I think this weekend was a big step.”