Locals eye return to states this week
NANCY SCHOLZ/Special to THE TIMES NEWS Caroline Kanaskie of Tamaqua is headed to the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships as part of the Blue Raiders' 400 freestyle relay team.
After Palmerton's Sawyer Allen collected his gold medal in the 100 breaststroke during the District 11 championships, he talked about how much he was looking forward to going back to states along with teammate Katie Pielmeier.
"Its definitely cool for everyone to go and have such a high success rate as a team," Allen said. "Even though we don't have a real team, it's pretty impressive that we keep sending people out."
Allen and Pielmeier are part of a budding state swimming tradition at Palmerton that began when Shea Solt swam to fourth and sixth place medals in the 500 and 200 freestyles, respectively, in 2008. Since then, the Blue Bombers have had at least one swimmer at each state meet, including last year when they sent three.
The senior duo join Northwestern sopohmore Trey Shackleton as District 11 champions going to Bucknell's Kinney Natatorium for the PIAA meet Wednesday and Thursday. Also making the trip based on their times, are Tamaqua's Joann Butkus in the 50 free and the Blue Raider girls' 400 free relay team.
The highest expectations will be on Shackleton, who attends PA Cyber School and swims for the Parkland Aquatic Club. After a breakout performance at districts that included setting new records in the 200 and 500 free, Shackleton wasn't shy about his hopes for the state meet. He'll enter both events seeded third, but figures to get faster as he saved the bulk of his taper for states.
"I was looking at state times from last year and I know there's going to be a couple of kids that are real fast," Shackleton said. "My goal is definitely in the 500 to win. And in the 200, to do as well as I possibly can and maybe be able to even win that as well."
In both events, Shackleton is seeded behind both Fleetwood's Matthew Leenhouts and Chartiers Valley Drew Damich. Leenhouts was fifth in the 200 and sixth in the 500 last year, while Damich, a sophomore, didn't swim either event at states as a freshman.
Another swimmer Shackleton will have to battle is Trinity junior Ian DiCarlo who took second in both events last year. DiCarlo is seeded fourth in the 200 and fifth in the 500.
In the 100 breast, Allen will make his fourth straight appearance in the pool at Bucknell. The class of District 11 the last two seasons, Allen has yet to make a trip to the state podium. He'd like to knock that out this season and enters states with the seventh fastest seed time at 1:00.31. That's over a second faster than his state time a year ago, when he made the B final and swam to 15th place. Boiling Springs senior Shane Hallett is the top seed with a time of 59.03.
Allen's teammate Pielmeier will have at least two swims in Lewisburg as she looks to earn her second state medal.
Pielmeier's best shot comes in the 200 IM, where she placed eighth last year. She enters with the ninth fastest seed time at 2:11.62. While that's over 10 seconds off the low time of Gwynedd Mercy freshman Allie Szekely, Pielmeier's time is just over three seconds out of fourth place in the event.
Pielmeier will also look for a night swim in the 100 breast, an event she took silver in at districts by six hundredths of a second. A year after placing 20th in the event, she enters as the 13 seed, five seconds off the low time set by Wilmington Area sophomore Lauren Barber.
Butkus will be part of the 32-swimmer field in the shortest, and usually most exciting, race at states - the 50 free. After placing third in districts, she'll swim the splash and dash as the 18th seed and look to move into the top 16 to return for a nighttime final.
The Blue Raider junior will also try to boost her team to a final in the girls' 400 free relay, where they're seeded 18th. Butkus anchored the relay at districts, swimming with Miranda Amey, Danielle DeCindio and Caroline Kanaskie.