LEWISBURG >> Everything that the Twin Valley high school swimming team accomplished this season was earned. None of it taken for granted.
So when senior Hannah Schlegel — the team’s lone state representative — climbed onto the medal podium at the conclusion of the PIAA Class AAA Championships Sunday, it was a moment the entire community could share.
Schlegel closed out her senior season with a bronze-medal finish in the 500-yard freestyle at Bucknell University on a season-best 4:55.55. It was the team’s first trip back to Class AAA competition this season after spending the previous two years swimming in Class AA.
“Definitely an extra challenge,” said Schlegel, “but I was up for it. It was motivating all season.”
That mentality is certainly appropriate, given the fact that her high school career has provided no shortage of challenges.
The program, ultimately considered a club sport by the high school, has been run by the Twin Valley Aquatic Club over the past several seasons. All funds are raised by the swimmers and coaches throughout the season. The team’s home pool is in the Commons Building at the Stonecroft section of TelHai Retirement Community in Honey Brook.
So the amount of work, says head coach Brian Emerich, is just about equal in the swimming pool and out on the field.
“It’s not only fund-raising,” he said, “it’s also going around the high school and trying to get the word out. We’ve seen a lot of challenges.
“When she was a freshman, she’d walk around school and kids would say, ‘You mean, we have a swim team?’ recalled Emerich of Schlegel. “Now she, along with her teammates, have definitely brought an awareness to the high school. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Throughout her four-year career, Schlegel helped put Twin Valley on the map. The Ohio University commit has nine PIAA state medals to her credit, including a four-medal showing during last season’s Class AA Championships. She also got to join her older sister, Samantha Schlegel, on the medal podium during her sophomore year, when Twin Valley took fourth in the 100-yard medley relay in 2015.
“It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of it all,” said Schlegel. “We’re slowly getting bigger and bigger. The team aspect is definitely building and getting better each season. I’m sad I won’t be a part of it, but I can’t wait to come back and see what’s next.”
Schlegel was joined on the team this year by district qualifiers sophomores Reagan Wittorff, Adeline Amber-Messick, Rachael Wolgemuth and freshman Helen Lahmann-Metcalfe.
In the spirit of all the growth the program has experienced, Emerich had planned all along to step down as head coach at the conclusion of the season to take on a more administrative role. It’s a role that he believes will help the program to take that next step.
“We’re up against big teams like Wilson and (Governor) Mifflin during the season,” he said. “Right now, we just don’t have the numbers to compete against them.
“We want to continue to build up the program each season.”
As he placed the bronze medal around Schlegel’s neck to close out the meet Sunday, he couldn’t help but think …
“This is my last time, too,” he said. “That got me a little choked up, just thinking about this team and what we’ve accomplished together.
“I know the future is bright.”