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PIAA Swimming: DiClemente, Weaverling successfully weigh anchor for Garnet Valley

Garnet Valley's Noelle DiClemente gets ready to take off for the anchor leg of the 400 freestyle relay as teammates Amy Townend, center, and Anastasia Erley look on. DiClemente rallied the Jaguars from eight to sixth at the PIAA Class 3A Championships.

LEWISBURG — Noelle DiClemente stepped up to the block in Lane 8 for the anchor leg of the 400 freestyle relay, glanced to her right and made a decree.

“I looked around to the two girls next to us and I turned around to one my teammates – I think it was Anastasia (Erley) – and I said, ‘I can get them,’” the Garnet Valley junior recalled. “And then I dove in and I went my fastest split ever.”

The Garnet Valley relay plan at the PIAA Class 3A Championships is established, and the two-headed monster of DiClemente and Catherine Weaverling ran it to perfection twice Saturday.

The early legs, by Erley and Amy Townend (or Alexa Hipp Friday), put the Jaguars in striking distance. Then Weaverling and DiClemente pounce.

In prelims, the Jaguars were seventh in their heat when Weaverling dove in. She handed off in fourth to DiClemente, who clawed back another spot as Garnet nabbed the eighth and final A championship berth.

“For my first 50, I just go out there and then I realize people are near me and I’m like, ‘Oh wait, we’ve got to go,’” Weaverling said. “And then I’ll bring us as close as I can and Noelle will finish it off.”

At night, Garnet was last when Weaverling (in a split of 51.51) handed off, but the sophomore closed the gap to the field. That allowed DiClemente to deliver a blistering 50.69-second leg for a time of 3:30.88, 1.4 ticks faster than the morning run.

“I was just doing it for my team because I felt like I owed it to them to get them a medal,” DiClemente said. “I was really excited. … It’s just something that I like to do. I like to catch people.”

DiClemente caught her second individual medal of the meet, finishing seventh in the 100 free in 51.69. That’s a spot behind Penncrest’s Claire Walsh (51.42), after DiClemente had been a spot ahead in the 50. Weaverling, who took fourth in the 100 butterfly, left the field behind off her final turn to win the B final of the 100 backstroke in 56.33.

The hardware testifies to the ascent of Garnet’s young corps.

“We knew that last year we just wanted to get to states, and this year we wanted to get medals,” DiClemente said. “We definitely accomplished that goal.”

• • •

Radnor’s Patrick Cullen couldn’t seem to crack the 46-second barrier in the 100 free Saturday. At least until he got a team behind him.

The senior sprinter went 46.04 in the morning, 46.02 at night, disappointed to finish 13th. But he got through the barrier in the 400 free relay, where the Raiders led wire-to-wire to win the B final and finish ninth in 3:09.01, two seconds faster than the morning.

Cullen matched the personal-best of 45.84 set at districts, again to lead a relay.

“It’s inspiring to see him keep dropping time,” anchor Wil Cosgrove said. “It’s more of a team thing. It makes me feel better that he cares more about the relay and more about our team, and that the adrenaline is up there. It feels better that he’s going faster with us.”

With Cullen and Nick Mlodzienski starting out, the Raiders hoped to run away from the field. Jack Undercofler and Cosgrove mobilized the fear of being caught to hang on.

“It’s a lot of pressure and I normally do a lot better under pressure,” Cosgrove said. “I get myself psyched up. Pat was cheering me … I couldn’t let them down.”

• • •

Strath Haven freshman Sydney Bergstrom cracked five minutes for the first time in high school in the morning with a 4:59.93, then medaled with a time of 4:57.70, good for fifth and just a second off her personal best.

“This is amazing,” Bergstrom said. “From the beginning of this meet, I really wanted to make the A final of the 500 free and I did and I got fifth, which was so good.”

She wasn’t the only Delco swimmer in the 500 finals. A 21st-place finish in the 200 free wasn’t how Sun Valley’s Keeley Durkin wanted to start. But with time to think, the junior recalibrated.

“Considering that I didn’t make it back last night, I wasn’t really expecting this weekend to go too well,” she said. “But then I was just like, you know what, I have nothing to lose. This is the last meet, this is a big stage and I went for it. I feel really good.”

Durkin learned from the experience. She went 5:06.72 in prelims, earning the 12th seed. While she sped up at night to 5:05.26, three-tenths shy of her personal-best from districts, her placement slid to 15th.

Given the journey Durkin has taken, with a three-week training hiatus due to a rib injury and an unlikely march from the depths of the District 1 seedings to states, a little adversity wouldn’t derail her.

Radnor’s Casey Cullen, seeded 27th, jumped 10 spots with a time of 5:08.80 but finished in the dreaded first-alternate spot.



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