Palmerton High School doesn't have a swim team. But that didn't stop four individual Blue Bomber swimmers from having great success at the District 11 Class AA Championships Friday and Saturday at Parkland High School.
All four swam medal-winning races on Day 2 of the event, led by senior Shea Solt, who won the girls Swimmer of the Meet Award after setting a district record and swimming to her second gold medal in two days.
"I wish [Palmerton had a larger team] because I love relays," Solt said. "I do have four other people on my team. It got bigger. Last year we only had three."
Palmerton's Sawyer Allen earned a gold Saturday, while Katie Pielmeier took silver and KP Pielmeier earned a bronze.
The Bombers do not earn team points because they don't have enough swimmers to field a team, however Katie Pielmeier and Solt alone earned 74 points, which would have been good enough for 20th place as a team.
Solt swam to a district record, 5:01.92 in the 500-yard freestyle on Saturday morning. A day earlier after coming within two-tenths of a second in the 200 free, she said she was unaware of the record before her swim.
"I made sure I looked at [the 500 record] today," she said. "That was my goal today - to go out and swim as hard as I could and hopefully get a district record."
Solt, like all race winners, earned an automatic trip to states March 19-20 at Bucknell University. She was fifth last year in the 500 and third in the 200.
Allen, a freshman and Solt's cousin, was told he had an automatic bid into states after tying Southern Lehigh junior John Deutsch for first place in the 100 breaststroke. But as the meet was winding down he learned they would have a two-person swim off for the spot. Deutsch, the top seed coming into the race, beat Allen in a close swim off.
Based on his time in the event, a 1:03.67 he swam for the tie, Allen will be an alternate at states.
His district time was five seconds faster than he had ever swam that race and even a little faster than the 1:04 he was hoping for.
"This is one of my first big meets," said Allen, who was seeded fifth at 1:08.5. "I was just hoping to go to the podium and to drop time."
Allen and the other Palmerton swimmers, who train with the Parkland Aquatic Club, don't compete in dual meets all season like most of the teams at districts.
Katie Pielmeier, a Palmerton freshman, earned her second silver medal of the meet with a second place in the girls 100-yard breaststoke. Peilmeier, who was second in 200 individual medley on Friday, was the fifth seed for the breaststroke at 1:14.45. She swam it in 1:10.51, just ahead of Panther Valley's Karoline Vavra (1:10.86) and Lauren Cormier (1:11.72). Medals go to the top four swimmers so all three were medalists in the girls 100 breaststroke.
KP Pielmeier, a Palmerton sophomore, also earned his second medal of the meet Saturday. After a fourth in Friday's individual medley, he took third in Saturday's 500-yard freestyle, where he was seeded fourth.
Tamaqua senior Ben Tuckett earned his second and third medals on Saturday. He won a silver in Friday's medley relay then took third and fourth in back to back events, the 100-yard backstroke and the 400 freestyle relay, to help the Blue Raiders finish fourth in the boys team standings.
"We're doing a little better than we thought we should be doing," he said. "Everyone's stepping up."
Tamaqua's Rickey Clemson also earned a medal Saturday, taking fourth place in the 50-yard freestyle in 23.64 and ahead of Weatherly's Matthew Cullen, who finished fifth at 24.0. Clemson was part of the fourth-place relay 400 freestyle relay, along with Sam Tuckett and Dane DeWire.
The Raiders also had a girls relay earn a medal as the foursome of Caroline Kanaski, Jordan Nowacki, Samantha Digilio and Schuyler Schmidt took fourth in the 400 freestyle relay.
Panther Valley senior Tricia Janowiak picked up her third medal of the meet. Along with Vavra, Cormier and Alexa Follweiller she was part of two medal-winning relays on Day 1 of the meet and finished one place out of a medal in the 50 freestyle. She picked a fourth-place medal Saturday in the 100 backstroke.
Panther Valley finished fourth in the girls team standings, one spot ahead of Tamaqua.
All event winners earn automatic qualification to the state meet. Swimmers who do not win can still qualify for states based on their times from districts compared to other times from district meets around the state.
Solt qualified for both of her individual events, 200 and 500 freestyle, based on her district wins.
Other area swimmers and relays who qualified based on time include: Panther Valley girls 200-yard medley relay and 200 freestyle relay; Katie Pielmeier in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke; Vavra in the 100 breaststroke and also as the first alternate in the 50-yard freestyle; Janowiak as the third alternate in the 100 backstroke; Cormier as the second alternate for the 100 breaststroke; KP Pielmeier in the 200 IM; and Allen as the second alternate in the 100 breaststroke.
District 11 Class AA Swimming
(Top 3 finishers; other local swimmers)
1. Southern Lehigh 423.5, 2. Salisbury 347.5, 3. Saucon Valley 239, 4. Tamaqua 224, 11. Panther Valley 20.
100 Freestyle: 1. Peter Cialkowski (Salisbury) 49.80, 2. John Matulevich (Pottsville), 3. Riley Geis (So. Lehigh), 9. Ricky Clemson (Tamaqua), 16. Zak Yachera (Tamaqua), 21. Tyler Butkus (Tamaqua), 23. Michael Sloboda (Panther Valley).
500 Freestyle: 1. Zachary Oatis (Saucon Valley) 4:49.17*, 2. Keagan Collins (Salisbury), 3. KP Pielmeier (Palmerton), 12. Matthew Cullen (Weatherly), 13. Devin Smith (Tamaqua).
100 Backstroke: 1. Jason Moyer (So. Lehigh) 54.25, 2. Sam Tatum (Salisbury), 3. Ben Tuckett (Tamaqua), 15. Corey McCann (Tamaqua), 23. Dan Starry (Tamaqua).
100 Breaststroke: 1. tie John Deutsch (So. Lehigh) and Sawyer Allen (Palmerton) 1:03.67 [Deutsch won swim-off for automatic state-meet qualification], 3. Kevin O'Brein (So. Lehigh), 8. Jason Gates (Panther Valley), 10. Nate Leibensperger (Tamaqua), 11. Calvin Troxell (Tamaqua), 13. Alex Sirkot (Weatherly), 18. Brandon Mazepa (Palmerton).
400 Freestyle Relay: 1. Salisbury (Peter Cialkowski, Craig Bujcs, Sam Tatum, Keagan Collins) 3:19.05*, 2. Saucon Valley, 3. Southern Lehigh, 4. Tamaqua (Ricky Clemson, Sam Tuckett, Ben Tuckett, Dan DeWire).
1. Southern Lehigh 376.5, 2. Allentown Central Catholic 370.5, 3. Salisbury 234, 4. Panther Valley 231, 5. Tamaqua 170.5.
100 Freestyle: 1. Duffy Lake (Pen Argyl) 55.70, 2. Lia Duffy (Pen Argyl), 3. Katie Cialkowski (Salibsury), 7. Alexia Follweiller (Panther Valley), 9. Lauren Cormier (Panther Valley), 13. Schuyler Schmidt (Tamaqua), 19. Samantha Digilio (Tamaqua), 21. Jordan Nowacki (Tamaqua), 28. Megan Amey (Tamaqua).
500 Freestyle: 1. Shea Solt (Palmerton) 5:01.92*, 2. Taylor Gonoude (Salisbury), 3. Gabby Guttman (Salisbury), 8. Caroline Kanaskie (Tamaqua), 9. Brittany Erbe (Panther Valley), 13. Deana DeWire (Tamaqua), 18. Ashleley VanBuren (Tamaqua), 25. Andrea Whitely (Tamaqua), 34. Kayla Nunemacher (Panther Valley).
100 Backstroke: 1. Kelly Polaha (Allentown Cent. Cath.) 59.89, 2. Falon Snyder (Allentown Cent. Cath.), 3. Sarah Lyons (So. Lehigh), 4. Tricia Janowiak (Panther Valley), 7. Brittany Erbe (Panther Valley), 10. Chey Bates (Tamaqua), 14. Christa Mantz (Panther Valley), 16. Ashley VanBuren (Tamaqua), 18. Megan Wagner (Tamaqua).
100 Breaststroke: 1. Megan Polaha (Allentown Cent. Cath.) 1:07.54, 2. Katie Pielmeier (Palmerton), 3. Karoline Vavra (Panther Valley), 4. Lauren Cormier (Panther Valley), 13. Emily Bumbulsky (Tamaqua), 16. Celene Yelito (Panther Valley), 20. Chloe Hartung (Tamaqua).
400 Freestyle Relay:1. Salisbury (Taylor Gonoude, Gabby Guttman, Katie Cialkowski, Emily Baumert) 3:40.52*, 2. Southern Lehigh, 3. Allentown Central Catholic, 4. Tamaqua (Caroline Kanaskie, Jordan Nowacki, Samantha Digilio, Schuyler Schmidt), 7. Panther Valley (Christa Mantz, Sarah Branchide, Celene Yelito, Brittany Erbe).
* Denotes district record