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Strath Haven’s Martin gets tough, gets a medal in states bow

LEWISBURG >> The tears on deck expressed how bad a Saturday Summer Martin was having.

Battling a stomach bug or food poisoning, short on sleep and shorter on energy, the Strath Haven senior wasn’t entirely sure she’d make it to Bucknell University for the PIAA Class 3A Championships. She was even less certain she wanted to be in the 200 freestyle, admittedly “kind of giving up” on the second half of the race with her energy reserves drained.

But Martin composed herself Saturday evening and decided to give it one more go in the 100 free Sunday morning. She wasn’t expecting a reward for her perseverance, but got one anyway, sneaking into the medal picture in eighth with a gutsy swim.

Martin essentially matched her districts time in 51.72 seconds, holding onto the eighth seed at Kinney Natatorium. She finished second in the penultimate heat, a fraction behind Conestoga’s Madison Ledwith, then bested two swims in the final heat to reach the podium’s final step.

“I wasn’t expecting to do what I did,” Martin said. “I just wanted to not get last in my heat.”

The 200 was an ordeal. Martin was nearly three seconds behind her districts pace in 1:55.18, plummeting from the 13th seed to 23rd place. Unable to keep food down and working on limited sleep, Martin had never felt so poorly before a meet in her life and didn’t have the distance in her legs.

Instead of calling it a meet, Martin, with the urging of her parents and Haven coach Dina Dormer, resolved to reassess Sunday. All the while, the Dartmouth-bound freestyler recognized the weight of giving up on her last high school swim.

“I would’ve felt really bad just scratching my last states ever,” she said. “I didn’t really go into it with the expectation of medaling or going close to my best time. I was honestly pretty surprised.”

Martin’s medal is her fourth individual accolade at states, joining seventh-place finishes in the 50 (2014), 100 and 200 (both 2015).

It helped that she had a built-in support network. Though she was the only Haven swimmer in the water Sunday, teammate Liz Olszewski swam Saturday, and plenty of teammates from Suburban Swim Club buoyed Martin’s spirits.

“A big part of it is that I just have so many friends here from Suburban and people I’ve made friends with over the years from high school meets,” Martin said. “And just being here and around them makes me happy and in a better mood. So I think coming here made me a lot happier whether I swam well or not.”

Penncrest’s Claire Walsh finished 11th in the 100 in 52.13. She and Radnor’s Julia Cullen, who claimed 18th, trimmed time from districts.

Martin, though, was the only one of the triumvirate carrying the weight of a final high school swim. And she used it as potent motivation.

“Today, I came into it with the mindset that it’s my last swim,” she said. “Whether I had a good swim or not, I enjoyed watching everyone else that I’m really good friends with do very well. So it was a mixture of coming here for myself and surrounding myself with people I’m friends with.”

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Ridley coach Kevin Pierce alerted Gab Rudy of the Delaware County record in the 100 breaststroke once or twice over the last month. He’s also discussed the All-American cut plenty.

Both now belong to Rudy, as the senior finished ninth in her signature event Sunday in 1:03.95. The time erases Sarah Baturka’s county mark in the event, set at 1:04.72 last year. Rudy, who’ll swim for Drexel next year, also meets the 1:04.56 All-American consideration cut.

Rudy’s time, within two-tenths of a personal best, is her fastest in high school by more than a second. She was 14th at states as a freshman and junior, the latter in 1:05.18.

“It was exciting to know that I had something to work towards,” Rudy said. “I knew that I had to go 1:04 low, 1:03 range to get to that goal, so I’m glad I got it.”

Rudy may have been a tad bummed to miss a medal by .05 seconds, but she viewed it in perspective. Sunday’s swim was her best high school time and best states placement. Without a full rest Sunday, she’s merely setting a benchmark to chase at YMCA Winter Nationals in two weeks.

She’s also proud of the distance she’s traveled in her career.

“It’s good to know that I started at a really low point and worked my way up to getting ninth now,” Rudy said. “When I started high school states, I was never close to being on the podium and now I’m one step away from being there, so it’s nice to know that I got there.”

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Though not as fast as Rudy, Penncrest sophomore Madison Dickert scored higher on the surprise rankings with her 15th-place 100 breast result.

She went from breaking 1:06 for the first time at districts – to her great shock – to breaking 1:05 at states in 1:04.91. Despite admitting to not feeling quite ready at the start, she channeled the serene self-assuredness that is in too short of supply at states to burst another barrier.

“It was so exciting to see it was a 1:04,” she said. “I know last time (at districts) I was surprised to see the 1:05, and I’m even more surprised to get something below a 1:05. It was just crazy. … Knowing that there’s nowhere to go further after this, it’s kind of more relaxing. It’s the furthest I’ve gone and I’m with the best of the best already, and this is already amazing.”

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NOTES >> Two other Delco swimmers mined medal Sunday. Madison Kolessar’s fourth place in the 500 free was tinged with a bit of disappointment, the freshman missing out on bronze by .01 in 4:55.56. Third went to Twin Valley’s Hannah Schlegel. Lower Merion’s Anna Kalandadze repeated as state champion in a time of 4:48.29 that swamped the final heat by nearly seven seconds. … Springfield’s Georgia Apostolu took sixth in the 100 backstroke in 56.10. She was fifth in the final heat. It’s the senior’s best states finish, improving on the 14th place earned last year by the UConn commit. Conestoga’s Caroline Famous won the event in 53.63, easily outdistancing the final heat.

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