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Mars' Gruber wins fourth PIAA 100 fly title

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Keith Barnes
Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 12:30 p.m.
 

LEWISBURG — Margaret Gruber did what every swimmer does when she touched the wall at the end of the 100-yard butterfly at the PIAA Class AA championships at Bucknell.

She looked at the clock.

And though she wasn't completely pleased with the time staring back at her, the Mars senior was ecstatic with the result. She became the four-time state champion in the event, finishing in 54.35 seconds, 0.86 ahead of Villa Maria Academy sophomore Alexa Fabbri.

“I'm really happy about it and how far I've come,” Gruber said. “It's just a lot of hard work and dedication, but it's been fun also because of my teammates, friends and coaches.”

Gruber had set her sights on the state record in the event: the 53.50 she won the title with a year ago.

“I wanted to lower it, but I'll still have it when I go to college,” said Gruber, a Virginia Tech recruit. “I know next year I'm going to get even better.”

Mohawk junior McKenzie Stelter didn't set a record in her first two appearances at the state meet. In fact, she didn't even earn a medal, finishing 12th in 2011 and 10th in 2012.

Stelter more than made up for it. She became the first WPIAL diver to win a Class AA state title since Kayla Kelosky of Riverside took the crown in 2007. Stelter held the lead after every rotation and finished with 406.70 points to beat Kelsey Williams of Holy Redeemer by 7.35.

“I knew there were some really good girls here, so I was really surprised (leading throughout),” Stelter said. “I want to dive in college, and it shows me that I can better myself for college. It's so surreal. It just happened so quick, and I just want to enjoy this moment.”

Stelter held only a 2.15-point lead heading into the final round, but Williams had to complete a compulsory dive with a lower degree of difficulty, which allowed Stelter to pick up some points with a solid dive with a higher degree of difficulty. She also defeated Moon's Heather Lonkert, who finished fifth, on her final dive at the WPIAL finals.

“I knew at the end it would all balance out, and I just had to go up and hit my last dive,” Stelter said. “The same thing happened at WPIALs.”

Between Kelosky and Stelter, the best finish by a WPIAL diver in Class AA was by Maria Lohman of Chartiers Valley, who finished second in 2012. Though the girls moved up to Class AAA and she will compete on Friday, the Colts boys team remained in Class AA, which was just fine for sophomore Drew Damich. He won his first state title when he swam a 1:40.52 in the 200 freestyle.

Damich dropped his morning time exactly two seconds from a 1:42.52 and was the only WPIAL boys competitor to win a title on the first day.

“It was amazing, and I just went for it,” Damich said. “It's always nice to have the No. 1 seed at a big meet like this, and it always feels big because, first place, there's no place to go but down.”

Damich had an easy lead after the first 100 yards, then cruised to a 1.55-second victory over Matthew Leenhouts of Fleetwood.

“It's amazing,” Damich said. “I trained so hard for this and it finally paid off.”

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kbarnes@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.

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