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Conestoga’s Burns, McKenrick go gold-bronze in 100 back

LEWISBURG >> All season, Brendan Burns and Brian McKenrick looked forward to a chance to swim each other in an event of the magnitude of the 100 backstroke at the PIAA Class 3A Championships.

When they received it Sunday at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium, the Conestoga duo didn’t disappoint.
Burns doubled up on gold, with McKenrick adding a second medal in third place for the Pioneers.

Burns controlled the field to win in 48.51, using his superior underwaters to pull away from the final heat. McKenrick slotted into third, slightly quicker than the District 1 Championships in 49.73 seconds.

“Obviously, it’s something that we’ve always wanted to do and had the opportunity to do a few times,” the sophomore Burns said. “I don’t think there was anything different, but I think at the end of the race it meant a lot more because I was right next to him. We both did well.”

There’s two aspects of pride that go into the race. McKenrick, a senior who will swim for the United States Military Academy at West Point next year, got the feeling of a practice in the race. The two had competed against each other in so many sets through the years that Sunday’s session felt like an extension of that, albeit with more spectators.

For McKenrick, who also took third in Saturday’s 200 individual medley, the thrill was in the race.

“I think when we got here, to me it almost felt like practice again, just me and him racing and going at it underwater,” McKenrick said. “It was great racing a friend like Brendan, especially seeing him grown up and get faster.”

Burns, who also won the 100 butterfly Saturday, was struck by the post-race pride of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his teammate on the podium.

“That’s definitely where the pride is,” Burns said. “We’re not a powerhouse here; we pop up in the rankings a few times, but compared to North Allegheny or North Penn or La Salle. But having the chance to go 1-3 and have few other schools do that, it’s really great to show what we’re made of.”

The duo got another chance at being teammates in the concluding 400 freestyle relay, teaming with Kevin Ryle and Oliver Neuman to tie North Penn for fourth place in 3:07.76. By past standards, the Pioneers’ was the more impressive, constituting a drop of more than three seconds from districts.

McKenrick’s particular pride stems from being the only senior of the bunch. With YMCA Nationals coming up, Burns and McKenrick will get at least one more chance to compete as teammates for Upper Main Line Y. But that last relay, and a chance for McKenrick to ponder his legacy, is a special milestone from his final states.

“To know that I medaled in all the events I swam and that we tied for fourth there (in the relay), that was great, to be up there with the team,” McKenrick said. “I was the only senior here, and I know the team is in such good hands because so many guys stepped up.”

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In his first trip to states, Kennett’s Emils Jurcik admitted to a touch of nerves Saturday.

By Sunday, they’d dissipated to allow a stellar swim in the 500 free, the junior taking fifth in 4:30.03.

It’s a personal best for Jurcik, who dominated the third heat of four in the event and saw his time hold up for a medal. As for the time, with cracking 4:30 as his stated goal for the trip to Bucknell, it’s a bit of mixed news.

“It’s kind of frustrating, but I’m also happy with it,” he said. “… Getting under 4:30 was my goal, but I’m happy with what I’ve got.”

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