Rigorous training pushed Solt to the top
For an athlete to win a District 11 gold medal in any individual event, it's something special.
When that same athlete goes on to the PIAA State Championships and brings back medals in the events entered, it's even more special.
For Palmerton's Shea Solt, who was able to accomplish both feats this year, it earned her the right to be named TIMES NEWS Swimmer of the Year for the second straight time.
Solt, a senior, did it the hard way. Since Palmerton High doesn't have a swim team, she used her diligent training schedule that she abides by year round as a member of the Parkland Aquatic team to fulfill her dream. She not only won district gold in the two events she swam in and was named the Class 2A Female District Swimmer of the Meet Award, she brought home a third place medal in the 200 freestyle and a fourth place medal in the 500 freestyle from the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships held at Bucknell University.
In her final event as a high school swimmer, Solt, who is headed to the University of Delaware to further her education and swimming career, swam in the 500 freestyle when she touched the wall in 4:56.91.
She qualified fourth in preliminaries with a time of 4:58.51, which was over three seconds faster than her qualifying time.
A day earlier, Solt set a personal best with a time of 1:52.20 to win the bronze medal in the 200 freestyle for the second straight time. She also medaled in the event as a sophomore when she finished sixth.
In the district meet at Parkland, she not just won gold, but set a district record in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:01.92. A day earlier she just missed setting a district record in the 200, when she also won gold with a time of 1:53.88.
"Last year I worked hard all season," said Solt, when asked about the difference in her junior and senior year. "This year I worked harder so I could improve my times.
"At states last year, I knew I tried my best, but knew I could do better. In my 500 free, I just felt like I should have went faster. This year I tried that and obviously, I had a slower suit on so I had my personal best in the 200 and was right around there in the 500."
Solt gives a lot of the credit for her success to Parkland High coach Eric Posegay, who also coaches the Parkland Aquatic Club, where the swimmers from Palmerton are members.
"Eric helped me with everything," said Solt. "I wouldn't be where I am today without him. He made me such a better swimmer and such an overall better person. He's definitely the main reason I've been as successful as I've been."
Shea became interested in the sport at a young age when her sister swam for the Palmerton Porpoises at the borough pool in the summer and she went to her practices. When she was five years old, she got in the water one day and she hated it.
"Every day my mom made me swim," she said. "When I was seven years old, I decided to go down and swim at Parkland because I liked it then."
Solt is among those who swim at Parkland all year round, which also includes training two days a week before school at 6:30 a.m.
She also heads back down to Parkland after school for more training in the water and also on land to make sure she is in shape.
"I do that all year round and about a month before districts and states, we start to cut back on our yardage and rest," she said. "That allows us to not be sore and just be ready to race in the championships."
In order to get qualifying times for districts, the Palmerton swimmers swam in three meets. One was an Invitational at Bloomsburg High School, one was at Panther Valley and the other was at East Stroudsburg.
So for Solt, she'll swim for the Blue Hens in college, the last school she went to on her visitations.
She'll be penciled in for both the 200 free and 500 free, but doesn't count out trying the 1,000 free at the next level.
And with her work ethic, don't be surprised if the enthusiastic swimmer isn't just as successful on the next level.