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PIAA Swimming: Matheny’s record-breaking breaststroke sparks memories for Abrahams, Haverford

Bronze-medal winner Alex Boeckx of Ridley, right, and runner-up David Abrahams of Haverford, left, flank Upper St. Clair's Josh Matheny on the podium for the 100 breaststroke at the PIAA Class 3A Championships Saturday. Matheny set the state record, displacing the 19-year-old mark belonging to Haverford's Brendan Hansen.

LEWISBURG — For 19 years, Brendan Hansen’s name ruled over breaststroke in Pennsylvania. Saturday, the reign ended. Emphatically.

Josh Matheny, a sophomore from Upper St. Clair, upended the decades-old standard in the 100 breast prelims at the PIAA Class 3A Championships, then went more than a second faster to win the event in 52.52 seconds.

“It’s always cool to break a record, especially when it’s held by someone like Brendan Hansen, who’s so well-known and probably one of the best men’s breaststrokers ever,” Matheny said after a 53.64 trimmed three hundredths off the Haverford High Olympian’s record. “It does feel really cool to be able to break that record.”

It seems fitting that as Matheny broke Hansen’s mark, another Haverford breaststroker was closest to him. That was David Abrahams, who claimed silver well back in 55.15 (following a personal-best 55.06 in the morning). Ridley’s Alex Boeckx was third in 56.30, a lifetime best.

“It was definitely one of those ones to remember,” Abrahams said. “I had a feeling Boeckx was going to be third just from the way he’s swimming this weekend. And Matheny, he’s just an animal.”

“Swimming with the big dogs up here, it’s a lot of work, especially when he’s breaking a national record,” Boeckx said. “I’m just proud to be in the race with him.”

Matheny’s swim was announced as a NFHS record, besting the 52.65 from Chandler Bray in 2016. However, a handful of swims have been quicker since, including Penn Charter’s Reece Whitley (51.18) at Easterns last year (though that stands as the National Prep record, separate from NFHS).

Regardless, Hansen’s 53.67 set in 2000 has proven eons ahead of its time. Of 32 individual states events, Hansen’s record was by far the oldest. Only four survive from last decade: Distance marks by Shady Side Academy’s Trevor Scheid in 2A boys from 2008 and the girls 100 butterfly from Kathleen Nolan in 2009, which becomes the oldest 3A standard. Hansen’s record is comparatively ancient.

The Haverford grad would go on to win three individual Olympic medals, three relays golds and seven individual world titles, setting five world records over the 100-meter and 200-meter distances.

The record seemed inevitable once Matheny won states as a freshman in 54.55. He’d been 52.89 in club competition.

Boeckx finished seventh in the 200 individual medley Friday, the first boys swimming medal in program history. Doubling up left him thrilled.

“I’ve had a lot of teammates, my coaches, everyone back at Ridley supporting me and really pushing me,” he said. “Last year, I couldn’t make finals, didn’t even make the 100 breast. And now I have medals in both events.”

Abrahams, who finished fourth last year and won the District 1 title, entered as the second seed, which he defended in prelims. And again he was equal to the task at night, a second ahead of Boeckx.

“I’ve never really been in that position in a high-school meet before,” he said. “It’s one of the best high-school meets in the country. To be able to do that, it was a lot of pressure, but honestly, it was a lot of fun, too.”

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