LEWISBURG >> When snow forced the PIAA Class 3A Swimming Championships to abandon a trials-and-finals format in favor of timed finals, Madison Kolessar was in the most perturbed demographic.
The most partial to the two-swim paradigm are distance types, with a chance to evaluate their strength in the morning and adjust in the evening finals. But with snow turning states into a one-shot deal at Kinney Natatorium, the Garnet Valley freshman knew she’d have to adapt in the 200 freestyle.
So Kolessar refined her mindset, not just to bring her best in the one swim she’d get but the possibility that her medal chances could hinge on winning her heat, the third of four. Her reward for doing so was a silver medal.
Kolessar’s time of 1 minute, 49.62 seconds won the heat, than survived all but the torrid time set by champion Morgan Scott of Pennridge in the final heat.
“Going into the race, I just wanted a best time,” Kolessar said. “I didn’t really care about what place I was going to be. So when I was in the second-to-last heat, I was trying to win it because I knew if I won it, then I could have a chance to medal.”
On the way, she added a Delaware County record, quicker than Episcopal Academy’s Emma Seiberlich (1:49.71) at Easterns in 2016.
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) March 18, 2017
Kolessar had a rabbit in Oxford senior Morgan Curl, who set the early pace a lane to Kolessar’s right. But Kolessar turned it on late, in part recognizing the benefit of getting past Curl.
“I definitely kept her in my mind as the race went on and I knew if I could hang on to her the first 100, then maybe I could have a chance to pass her in the second 100,” Kolessar said.
Curl clocked in at 1:50.34, good for fifth. In the final heat, Scott steamed away from the field by nearly three seconds, clocking in at 1:46.77 to defend her state crown. The best of the rest in the final heat was Upper Dublin’s Abbie Amdor, but her time of 1:49.64 was .02 shy of Kolessar.
Saturday’s success eases the adjustment curve for Sunday’s 500, in which she’s drawn into the final heat, seeded sixth overall.
“I’ll definitely have a little more confidence knowing that I did well with my timed final in the 2-free, that I should be able to do well in my 5-free tomorrow,” Kolessar said.
Sunday is the bigger day for Ridley’s Gab Rudy and Springfield’s Georgia Apostolu, the Division I-bound talents contesting their preferred 100-yard stroke events.
But Saturday presented a symbolic coda on their high schools careers — the two rivals turned friends competing together in the 200 individual medley. Rudy finished 16th in a scholastic best (and school record) 2:06.50. Apostolu was 19th in 2:08.44, both improving on their seed times.
For two swimmers that have been competing against each other since they were eight, it is a fitting cap on their high school careers.
“It’s pretty reassuring knowing that I have one of my good friends next to me,” Rudy said.
Rudy and Apostolu started swimming against each other a decade ago, though the friendship is newer. As they’ve grown into national-level swimmers with the Ridley Rays, they’ve also grown closer, in part thanks to their shared event.
“We weren’t very close when we were younger,” Apostolu said. “I don’t know why, but we had this rivalry kind of thing. We just swam different things.”
“Even though I was a breaststroker and she was a backstroker, we still didn’t really talk to each other,” Rudy said. “But as we grew older and got faster with each other, we became better friends. And then we started swimming IM together.”
Swimming together isn’t something new — they’ve been placed in the same heat at bigger meets like YMCA Nationals and could find themselves in the same position in two weeks for Winter Nationals.
Apostolu, headed to the University of Connecticut, remains a backstroke/butterfly specialist and is seeded fourth in the 100 back Sunday. Drexel-bound Rudy is seeded 14th in the 100 breaststroke. Saturday’s swims, in which they trimmed a combined second off their seed times, are good omens.
“It definitely settles the nerves,” Apostolu said. “I think for tomorrow, if I feel good today, then it’s reassuring for tomorrow.”
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) March 18, 2017
NOTES >> Penncrest’s Claire Walsh won the next-to-last heat of the 50 free in 23.55 seconds en route to sixth place. The sophomore had finished second last year. Two fast freshmen did the trick again this year, with Gateway’s Olivia Livingston edging Conestoga’s Caroline Famous. Livingston downed Emily Cameron’s five-year-old state record by .02 in 22.73 seconds. … Radnor’s Julia Cullen just missed a medal, fading late to finish third in her heat of the 100 butterfly and 10th overall in 56.04 seconds, a tidy time drop from districts. … Strath Haven’s Summer Martin, fighting off an illness, took home 23rd in the 200 free. Teammate Liz Olszewski was 17th in the 100 fly.
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