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Geibel freshman garners school's 1st PIAA medal since 1999

Dan Gleiter | Patriot-News Elizabeth Forward senior Braelyn Tracy swims during her fifth-place finish in the 500 freestyle at the PIAA Class AA swimming championships Thursday at Bucknell University in Lewisburg.

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By Keith Barnes
Thursday, March 14, 2013, 9:51 p.m.

LEWISBURG — Emily Zimcosky had a bit of a quandary Thursday at the PIAA Class AA finals.

After going through the early morning qualifying heats, she wanted to get some rest before the evening championships. The problem was the Geibel contingent already had checked out of its hotel, which left her scrambling for a solution.

Her remedy was to inflate an air mattress in a corner of the unused basketball court at Bucknell University's Stojka Pavilion and take a nap during the boys qualifying heats.

Though it may sound a bit unconventional, it worked wonders as the Geibel freshman finished fourth in the 100-yard freestyle to bring home a rare state swimming medal for the school. Geibel had not had a WPIAL champion medal at the PIAA meet since Diego Marquez finished fifth in the 100 breaststroke in 1999.

“It means a lot coming from a small school that only has 200 students, which is as much as some schools have in one class,” Zimcosky said. “It will be nice since swimming is such a small part of the school with football and in-line hockey and other sports that we have; it will be nice to show that swimming is hard work and it can pay off.”

On Wednesday, Zimcosky finished ninth in the 200 freestyle, falling just short of competing in the championship heat.

“The 200 is a rough event to get mentally prepared for,” Zimcosky said. “You have to trust your training, which is something that I've always struggled with, and having this experience will push me to go further and work on different events like the 200, the 500, the 1,000. But it was different having experience in the pool and having people around to support me.”

Elizabeth Forward's Braelyn Tracy needed to lean on the people around her after she finished what was, in her mind, a disappointing meet which left her emotionally drained. Tracy, who is still deciding between California (Pa.) University and Toledo, wrapped up her final high school meet with a fifth-place finish in the 500 freestyle.

“I think it's just an emotional day with my last high school race, and I was frustrated that I had added time,” Tracy said. “I did just swim a week-and-a-half ago, and I did have a phenomenal WPIAL (meet) and had my two best times and I got two gold medals, so there's really nothing I should be upset about right now.”

Tracy, who won WPIAL titles in both the 200 and 500 freestyle, finished fifth in the 500 freestyle at the state meet with a time of 5 minutes, 1.13 seconds. She captured the WPIAL championship in the event March 1 with a 4:59.53 — the only swimmer to break five minutes.

Laurel Highlands senior Justin Kostelnik was a little happier with the end to his high school career as he finished fourth in the 100 backstroke with a time of 51.94 seconds. German exchange student Robert Sikatzki of Fairview nearly broke the state record in the event with a time of 49.56.

“Overall, I'm pretty happy,” Kostelnik said. “I just really wanted to get a couple of best times for my last high school swim meet. … But overall, I'm happy with it.”

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

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