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Greek takes out IM frustration in 500 free

PHILADELPHIA >> Jimmy Greek wasn’t in the mood to sugarcoat his Saturday spent at the District 1 Championships.

Trimming time off his seed in the 200 individual medley at La Salle University was all well and good. But finishing 11th and likely out of striking distance for states qualification left the Garnet Valley junior bitter.

With a day to reflect and channel that energy into his Sunday swim, Greek showed the difference that a day can make.

Greek dropped 9.6 seconds off his seeding to take home 11th place in the 500 in 4 minutes, 45.07 seconds. The difference is that unlike his IM time, his 500 freestyle speed would’ve been enough to make states each of the last two years and offers a good chance to head to Bucknell in two weeks. The top five finishers in District 1 advance automatically, with the next 16 fastest times from district meets across the state granted at-large bids.

The 500 isn’t necessarily the best event to swim with a chip on your shoulder. But Greek made it work for him.

“I’ll be honest, I swim it stupid,” Greek said. “I take it out and I try to survive. It’s literally survival of the fittest. You have to think about how many times you trained for this, you do 100s all the time, it’s literally everything you put into that. I’m really happy with the time.”

Greek’s feelings diverged drastically from just 24 hours earlier. He went 1:58.38 in the IM Saturday, a drop of more than two seconds from his previous best this year but still not what he was after.

“I was just frustrated with it,” Greek said. “There’s nothing to put it into words. It’s not what I wanted to go. I came in with high expectations.”

It took a team effort to pick him up ahead of the second day of competition, and at the forefront was Aidan Zipf. The cheery sophomore took 14th in the IM in the lane next to Greek and knew how his teammate and junior captain would be feeling afterward. So Zipf was part of the emotional support crew that helped Greek turn it around.

“Jimmy really wanted to make states,” Zipf said. “Going to states is a big deal. He was really looking forward to doing it in the IM, and what he did in the 500 today, it really made him happy. Him and I, we’ve been swimming with each other for so long that for the IM, it wasn’t a big deal for us. If anything, it was more fun than competitive. It was just a fun time.”

Greek may yet get his states berth. The 16th and final at-large berth to states last year clocked in at 4:46.66, though it was faster in 2016 at 4:45.57.

The fun times kept rolling for Zipf, whose smile didn’t dim the whole day. Part of that was the awe he expressed with a medal around his neck for fourth place in the 100 breaststroke, earning an automatic trip to states. Zipf came in with a best time this season of 59.85 and blitzed past it to clock in at 57.68.

For a swimmer with a previous best time of 59.09, Zipf bypassing of the 58 altogether left him astounded.

“I didn’t really expect to go a 57,” Zipf said. “I was expecting to go a 59 maybe. But I did. I was really happy. I just smiled and shook the other competitors’ hands. I was just like, ‘Wow, dang, I didn’t think I could do that.’ I was very surprised with myself.”

Zipf’s stellar swim was part of a spate of Delco dominance in the 100 breast that placed five swimmers in the top 12. Haverford’s David Abrahams also booked an automatic trip to states by finishing fifth in 57.72, and Radnor’s James El-Deiry will accompany them in sixth at 58.27. Matthew Bochanski of Haverford took ninth in 59.18, while Ridley’s Alex Boeckx was 12th in 59.25. It took 59.89 to get an at-large to states last year, but the insane depth in the event in District 1 will send that time plunging. Seventeen swimmers broke the minute-mark in the event, won by Hatboro-Horsham senior Andy Thomas in 55.96.

Greek faces a day of waiting, as results trickle in from weather-delayed districts meets across the state to compile the fastest at-large times. With Saturday’s disappointment banished, he at least swam his way into a chance at states, which is enough for him.

“It’s a 50-50,” Greek said. “If I get in, I’ll be happy. If I don’t, oh well, and I’ll be watching Aidan Zipf on TV.”

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