SOUTH WHITEHALL TOWNSHIP - In fourth place after 100 yards and third after 150, Northwestern representative Trey Shackleton knew he had little time left to make a splash in his first District 11 race - the boys 200 freestyle.
But his final kick over the race's last 50 meters was enough to not only win the race, but drop a full two seconds off the district record at the first day of the Class AA swimming championships, held yesterday afternoon at Parkland High School.
Shackleton was one of two area swimmers to win gold at the meet, as Palmerton senior Katie Pielmeier - a winner in the 200 individual medley - broke through for her first career trip to the top of the podium.
The boys 200 free turned out to be the fastest race of the day, as the top three swimmers all broke the district record with Shackleton's 1:43.60 time besting a mark set by Saucon Valley's Zach Oatis in 2011. Southern Lehigh duo Josh Kreider and Michael Anderson were second and third, respectively.
"I felt like I was actually going pretty slow until the last 50," Shackelton said. "I really started pushing it there and I saw at the wall that I was almost half a body length behind. That's when I knew I had to have a fast last split to bring me back."
When Shackleton, a sophomore, hit the wall with 50 meters left, he was nearly a full second behind Kreider. But he closed the gap and made a strong turn off the wall with 25 yards to go. Of the top four swimmers in the race, Shackleton was the only one to break 27 seconds in the final 50, which he swam in a blistering 26.06 seconds.
"At the end of the race I really just kind of dug in and did my best to pass him," Shackleton said. "I swim a lot of big meets with big competition. I'm used to it being fast, but not quite that fast."
The only thing Pielmeier was used to in district competition had been silver medals. The Blue Bomber swimmer was a runner-up in two events last season and had two other silvers and two bronzes in her collection.
After dueling with Southern Lehigh's Rhyan Rodriguez last year and finishing less than a tenth of a second behind the Spartan junior, Pielmeier was poised to swim better this season.
She spent the year honing her fly technique, the opening stroke of the 200 IM which cost her an early lead last season, and the practice paid off. Pielmeier led by over a tenth of a second after the fly and was just two tenths behind Rodriguez midway through the race.
"My goal was to go out fast in the fly and keep up in back because she's a really good backstroker," Pielmeier said. "Breaststroke is my best stroke so I wanted to get out in front and hold the lead in freestyle."
Pielmeier's 40.07 split in the breaststroke portion was the second fastest time in the field and she swam the fastest freestyle of anyone to lock up her first district gold in four years of competing. She finished the race in 2:11.62.
"I was nervous for two weeks before this," Pielmeier said. "I've been having dreams about this race. I was really nervous, but I took all that nervous energy and put it into my race and turned it into a positive thing."
The 200 IM also proved to be a positive race for Tamaqua junior Miranda Amey, who dropped over six seconds off her seed time to jump from the seventh seed to a trip to the podium for fourth place with a time of 2:20.92.
Amey's teammate, Joann Butkus, logged a grueling day of swimming which saw her swim three of the first five events of the meet and collect three bronze medals. Butkus' afternoon began by helping Tamaqua to a third place finish in the opening 200 medley relay. She then finished third in the back-to-back 50 free and 100 fly.
Northern Lehigh's Scarlet Ojeda also earned a medal in the 100 fly, finishing fourth.
The winners of each race earn automatic berths to the state meet, set for March 13-14 at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium. The other swimmers can qualify by virtue of their times.
Tamaqua's girls racked up 133 points and find themselves just five points behind second place Blue Mountain in the team standings after day one. Both teams trail favored Southern Lehigh (312 points) by a sizeable margin.
On the boys side, Salisbury holds a 46-point lead over Southern Lehigh in the team competition. Tamaqua is in ninth place.
The Southern Lehigh boys capped the meet in exciting fashion, setting a new District 11 record in the day's final race - the 200 free relay. The Spartans time of 1:28.92 was over three tenths faster than the mark they set last year.
For the second year in a row, a new district record was set in the girls 200 free, where Bethlehem Catholic's Sydnee Karam swam a 1:52.63 to top Central Catholic's Sydney Stinner's mark from 2012 by six hundreths of a second. Karam set a district record last season in the 100 free.
The second day of the District 11 meet begins this morning at 10 a.m. at Parkland.
Class AA Swimming Championships
At Parkland High School
1. So. Lehigh (SL) 312, 2.. Blue Mountain (BM) 138, 3. Tamaqua (T) 133, 4. Allentown Central Catholic (CC) 109, 5. Moravian Academy (Mor) 94, 6. Salisbury (Sal) 91, 7. Schuylkill Haven (SH) 67, 8. Saucon Valley 62, 9. Bethlehem Catholic (BC) 41, 10. Mahanoy Area (MA) 37, 11. Nortthern Lehigh (NL) 24, 12. (tie)Palmerton (Palm), Pen Argyl (PA) 20, 14. Tri-Valley (TV) 14, 15. Notre Dame Green Pond (ND) 12, 16. Marian (Mar) 4
(top three plus local finishers)
200 medley - 1. Southern Lehigh (Rhyan Rodriguez, Raechel Rodriguez, Sarah Lyons, Jenna Forrester) 1:49.55, 2. Blue Mountain, 3. Tamaqua (Caroline Kanaskie, Carly Trovinger, Joann Butkus, Danielle DeCindio)
200 free - 1. Sydnee Karam (BC) 1:52.63*, 2. Abigail Thomson (SL), 3. Madison Amann (SL), 7. Caroline Kanaskie (T), 15. Makayla Boyle (T), 19. Nichelle Pucklavage (T);
200 IM - 1. Katie Pielmeier (Palm) 2:11.62, 2. Rhyan Rodriguez (SL), 3. Raechel Rodriguez (SL), 4. Miranda Amey (T), 13. Carly Trovinger (T), 20. Emily Bumbulsky (T);
50 free - 1. Lake Duffy (PA) 24.13, 2. Jenna Forrester (SL), 3. Joann Butkus (T);
100 fly - 1. Sarah Lyons (SL) 58.88, 2. Maken Glemser (SL), 3. Joann Butkus (T), 4. Scarlet Ojeda (NL), 7. Danielle DeCindio, 13. Sabrina Krupko (Mar)
200 free relay - 1. Southern Lehigh (Madison Amann, Santina Schiaretta, Emily Lyons, Jenna Forrester) 1:41.0, 2. Blue Mountain, 3. Salisbury, 7. Tamaqua (Amber Gulick, Makayla Boyle, Carly Trovinger, Miranda Amey).
1. Salisbury (Sal) 246, 2. Southern Lehigh (SL) 200, 3. Allentown Central Catholic (CC) 134, 4. Moravian Academy (Mor) 125, 5. Blue Mountain (BM) 102, 6. Schuylkill Haven (SH) 93, 7. Pottsville (Pot) 79, 8. Saucon Valley (SV) 68, 9. Tamaqua (T) 60, 10. Bethlehem Catholic (BC) 38, 11. Northwestern (NW) 20, 12. Palmerton (Palm) 16, 13. Pen Argyl (PA) 12, 14. Mahanoy Area (MA) 10, 15. Weatherly (W) 7.
(top three plus local finishers)
200 medley - 1. Salisbury 1:40.04, 2. Southern Lehigh, 3. Blue Mountain, 6. Tamaqua (Jake Kropp, Gage Whalen, Benjamin Turrano, Ethan Eberts);
200 free - 1.Trey Shackleton (NW) 1:43.63*, 2. Josh Kreider (SL), 3. Michael Anderson (SL), 17. Matt Stanek (T), 18. Jake Wenzel (T);
200 IM - 1.Tim Costantini (Sal) 2:02.72, 2. Jarod LaSelva (BC), 3. Sawyer Allen (Palm), 9. Gage Whalen (T), 16. Patrick McMullen (T), 20. Jacob Sirkot (W)
50 free - 1. Daniel Weekes (Mor) 22.06, 2. Tyler Primrose (Mor), 3. Dylan Bonge (Sal), 10. Alex Sirkot (W), 15. Benjamin Turrano (T), 21. Ethan Eberts (T);
100 fly - 1. Eric Tatum (Sal) 51.22, 2. Fernando Rios (CC), 3. Jarod LaSelva (BC), 13. Benjamin Turrano (T);
200 free relay - 1. Southern Lehigh (Josh Kreider,Trevor Decastro, Gavin Gunkle, Michael Anderson) 1:28.92*, 2. Salisbury, 3. Moravian Academy, 9. Tamaqua (Benjamin Turrano, Patrick McMullen, Jake Wenzel, Ethan Eberts).
* - new district record