High School Sports

Brown, Challis headline State College’s day at PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships

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With both parents longtime collegiate coaches, she grew up poolside, surrounded by the swimming and diving world.

Now, just two years into the sport herself, State College diver Tally Brown continued making strides, showing out at the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships with a 13th overall finish on Thursday at Bucknell’s Kinney Natatorium.

State College boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving represented in 11 events on the second day of competition. The only other competitor to reach the finals was Mikey Challis, participating in the 100-yard boys’ breaststroke.

Challis finished 14th in the finals, posting a time of 58.40 seconds. He qualified for the final heat with a 10th-place mark in the morning preliminaries.

In between Challis’ stints in the pool, Brown made a lasting impression on the diving board.

Just a sophomore, Brown had a distinct goal coming into Thursday, something she fell short of last season: make the finals.

Brown placed 20th in last year’s state championships, impressive nonetheless for someone, at the time, in her first year of competitive diving.

Still, she set a standard for herself before this season. She didn’t want to be cut a second time.

“I didn’t want that to happen again,” Brown said. “So I just worked harder than I did last year.”

It showed, too.

Brown posted a total score of 388.30, continually improving as the day went on. In preliminaries, Brown was 16th with scores of 28.00, 40.25, 34.85, 38.40 and 34.80.

After semifinals were wrapped up, Brown bumped up to 14th, bolstered by scores of 29.75, 43.20 and 35.20.

And following the final cut, the sophomore was consistent, posting marks of 32.50, 39.10 and 32.25 in the finals to top off the afternoon.

State College assistant diving coach Patrick McClelland was glowing after Brown’s performance.

“I couldn’t be happier,” the coach said. “At 13th, we’re really, really pleased with that.”

Especially considering Brown’s recent foray into the sport.

Her father was a coach at Penn State for 28 years, while her mother coached at Purdue and Northwestern, but Brown herself didn’t participate competitively until a couple years ago.

Instead, she was a competitive gymnast for nine years, from age 6 to 15.

That experience has aided Brown immensely.

“It helps a lot, being able to flip and twist naturally,” the diver said.

From McClelland’s perspective, Brown’s gymnast instincts and sheer ability should land her on a Division I diving team in the future.

Brown, with two more years left in her high school career, has a high ceiling.

“She has all the skills,” McClelland said. “You look at the gymnastics skills she brings to the table. Having spent a lot of time around the diving board and the pool, listening to her dad.

“She caught on like wildfire.”

Challis, like Brown, took advantage of Thursday’s opportunity as a sophomore.

After missing the finals in last year’s breaststroke, Challis pegged rectifying that as his goal from the get-go this season.

“This is what I’ve been targeting all year,” the sophomore said. “This really sets up for a great junior and senior year.”

State College head coach Ryan Sprang was proud of Challis — and really his whole squad.

Challis, Benjamin Gingher (100 breaststroke), Grace Tothero (100 breaststroke) and Kate Cooper (relay) all set personal best times on Thursday.

Others competing included: Filip Turecky (100 backstroke, 18th), Tobias Van Dyke (500 freestyle, 25th), Matt Morris (100 freestyle, 28th), Juliet Garrigan (100 backstroke, 25th), Kelsey Bittel (500 freestyle, 30th) and Fiona Vashaw (100 freestyle, 29th).

Both State College teams also took part in the 400 freestyle relays. The boys’ team finished 21st, and the girls’ squad was 29th.

Sprang, acknowledging the competition that his team faced, said State College took “positive steps” toward reaching the standard necessary to contend for a state title.

“We have our work cut out for us,” Sprang said. “We want to get to that level...We knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight, being one of those top teams.

“But that’s something we want.”

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9

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