PHILADELPHIA >> As Patrick Cullen ascended the block at La Salle University’s Kirk Natatorium Friday, he thought of his race as another practice swim.
Tons of times, the Radnor junior has found himself a lane over from Greg Giannella, in practices and meets too numerous to count. He probably fell on the losing side of the ledger more often than not, but in the finals of the District 1 Class 3A Championships, Cullen figured he could do worse than have a rabbit like Giannella to pursue.
It worked for both — Giannella doubling up on sprint gold in 45.67 seconds, Cullen booking a states trip in fourth at 47.14.
“I was definitely nervous going into it, but I was thinking that it was kind of like practice,” Cullen said. “I’ve raced him hundreds of times in practice right next to him. So I kind of liked having him right there. I knew he was going to go out stronger than me and probably beat me, but it’s nice having him there.”
The duo teamed up in the 400 free relay, with James El-Deiry and Nick Mlodzienski, to take home fourth place and another states berth in 3 minutes, 9.25 seconds, a school record. Giannella capped a stellar meet by bringing the relay home in 44.63.
Giannella was one of three double individual winners, joining Conestoga’s Brendan Burns and Hatboro-Horsham’s Andy Thomas. Burns was named most outstanding swimmer of the meet.
Cullen and his younger teammates are inspired by seeing Giannella’s efforts paying such lofty dividends.
“It’s definitely great having him there as a leader to this team,” Cullen said. “He motivates us all and he’s a great captain. It’s going to be tough not having him next year, but we definitely do have some young talent, and hopefully we can accomplish what he accomplished in the following years.”
The distance contingent remains an area of strength for Delco, with the potential for three states bids. Strath Haven’s Will Resweber and Haverford’s Collin Pettit could make return trips to Bucknell, the former taking sixth in 4:40.12 and the latter seventh in 4:42.65.
Ninth was Haven’s Sean Adams in 4:45.32, a best time and eight seconds quicker than at Centrals two weeks ago. The final at-large states berth last year clocked in at 4:45.57, and Adams benefits from a relatively slow district field this year. (Resweber was ninth last year in 4:43.46.)
“That was a goal coming into the season, to qualify for states,” Adams said. “I’ve seen a lot of kids go and how fun and fast the meet is, how fun the atmosphere is. It’s definitely something you want to strive to go to.”
Teammate Oliver Yancey is in a similar boat after finishing eighth in the 100 breaststroke in 59.56. It took 59.70 for states last year. David Abrahams of Haverford is on more secure footing in seventh at 59.35.
The Haverford relay of Matthew Shaw, Matt Phillips, Leo Goldszal and Pettit is also in tenuous shape after placing ninth in 3:13.45. Only eight relays get at-large bids; 3:12.59 got in last year.