LEWISBURG - Shea Solt knew Saturday would be the final day of her high school swimming career. So she made it one of the best days of her career.
At the final day of the PIAA Class AA Swimming and Diving Championships, the Palmerton senior took fourth place in the 500 freestyle, the highest placing in her career in that event.
She earned a spot in the championship final by qualifying fourth in preliminaries with a time of 4:58.51, over three seconds faster than her qualifying time. She bettered that with a 4:56.91 in the final.
"I knew I wanted to go faster [in the final]," she said. "I had a lot of adrenaline. I'm really happy with my time and my place."
Palmerton sophomore KP Pielmeier also competed at states, placing 11th in the 500 freestyle. Palmerton freshman Katie Pielmeier and Panther Valley's Karoline Vavra competed in the 100-yard breaststroke at states, finishing 24th and 27th, respectively. And Palmerton freshman Sawyer Allen placed 32nd in the 100 breaststroke after an unlikely turn of events allowed him to get in as an alternate.
Solt, who will swim at the University of Delaware for the next four years, capped her meet with the fastest time she's ever swum in the 500 free. And she did it without anyone next to her. The two leaders opened a half-lap lead early in the race and the third-place finisher was four lanes away from Solt, so she didn't have anyone near her for most of the race.
"The way she was able to push on her own and go 4:56 I thought was an oustanding effort," said Eric Posegay, the Parkland Aquatic Club and Parkland High School coach. (Palmerton does not have a swim team. Bomber swimmers practice train with PAC and Posegay.)
It was Solt's second medal in two days as she finished third in 200 freestyle on Friday, the first day of the two-day meet held at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium.
"This is her best state meet in terms of medals and it's by far her best state meet in terms of performance," Posegay said. "I'm so proud of her. I couldn't think of a better way to go out."
KP Pielmeier's goal for the season was to get to his first state meet. When he reached that goal, his new objective became qualifying for the championship or consolation finals. Sixteen of the 32 swimmers in each individual event come back for finals.
He had the 12th-best time in preliminaries to earn a spot in the 500 freestyle consolation final. He finished third in that race for 11th place overall.
"I'm so ecstatic," he said. "I went in here, first states, just hoping to drop time."
KP Pielmeier was seeded 15th at 4:55.79. He did his morning preliminary in 4:52.28 and went even faster in the evening finals.
"The key to a great finals swim is a good prelim swim," he said. "I had a nice rest in the afternoon and I came back here and just went to work."
Allen ran into extraordinary circumstances at a meet for the second time in two weeks.
After tying for first place at districts and being told he had earned his place at states, officials informed him that was incorrect. He had to swim-off for the state meet berth. He did not win the swim off, but his original time was good enough to make him second alternate for states.
Alternates for state swimming are rarely needed. Posegay said he's never seen one get a chance to swim in nine years of attending the meet.
That could be why the first alternate was not there when one of the breaststroke qualifiers backed out of his race. Allen, who was at the meet to cheer on his cousin, Solt, got the nod as the second alternate just a couple hours before he had to swim.