Mars boys win PIAA Class AA swimming title
LEWISBURG — The Mars boys didn't need a dramatic win or even a top-three finish.
That didn't stop the Planets from delivering the signature moment of Saturday's PIAA Class AA swimming and diving championships at Bucknell's Kinney Natatorium.
Mars came from behind to win the 400-yard freestyle relay in 3 minutes, 12.57 seconds and moments later celebrated its first state title.
Christopher Georgiadis swam a strong third leg to make the first push. Francis Folz finished it off.
“We've been setting records in that race,” Folz said. “So to come to states and win that race that we've been working on so much is just so rewarding.”
Mars finished with 153 points to best second-place Trinity Camp Hill (134). Trinity Camp Hill's 400 relay team was disqualified in Saturday morning's prelims.
“I'm so pumped,” Georgiadis said. “To describe it ... I think I would have to pull up a dictionary for that one.”
Entering the 400 free relay, the Planets trailed Trinity Camp Hill, 134-113, but by avoiding a disqualification, Mars was assured of at least 22 points.
“We said just make safe starts,” Mars coach Heidi Brandon said. “But they wanted to go for it, and as long as they were safe starts, we were fine with that. That, again, shows their dedication that they were not just going to give that away.”
Mars got key points from medalists Folz (fourth, 100 free) and Thomas Pierre (sixth, 500 free).
Mars diver Taylor Hockenberry finished sixth Saturday with a score of 369.40.
West Allegheny's Jarod Kehl swam the 500 free much like he has handled his season: saving the best for last.
Kehl's final split was his third-fastest of the race, and he cruised to a win in 4:28.80. It's the second state title in two days for Kehl, who Friday won the 200 individual medley.
“The 200 is a little less time,” Kehl said. “The 500 I have a little more time to get my rhythm. That definitely helps me, so I can bring it back that last half.”
Geibel's John Paul Zimcosky medaled for the second time by taking seventh in the 100 free. Neshannock's Ian Buckner was eighth to give the WPIAL three medalists in the event.
Bailey Bonnett of Highlands was third in the 500 free (4:56.57), which Western York's Courtney Harnish won with a state-record time of 4:40.04.
Mohawk's McKenzie Stelter was unable to defend her PIAA Class AA title in girls diving and finished second behind Upper Moreland's Sydney Szopo.
Villa Maria Academy won the Class AA girls team title with 220 points. The top WPIAL team was South Fayette with 57.