Souderton’s Musterait wins gold in 100 free; Bronze for North Penn’s Yacopino, girls 400 free relay

LEWISBURG — One of the fastest freestylers around the past two seasons, Kevin Musterait finished off his Souderton Area career in commanding fashion, winning gold in the 100-yard freestyle Thursday night at the PIAA Class AAA Championships at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium.

“It feels awesome. I’ve been training for this my entire life, ever since I can remember,’ Musterait said.

The senior was wearing a collection of three medals by meet’s end, also helping the 200 free relay win bronze on Wednesday and the 400 free relay place fifth on Thursday.

Musterait went in as the top seed in the 100 free finals and delivered, touching in 43.94 to beat out Upper Dublin’s Michael Jensen (44.39) for top honors.

“I felt confident,’ Musterait said. “I was confident about what I was gonna do and I knew I had to do it so I went in and got it done.’

In morning prelims, the senior dropped nearly two seconds off his seed time (46.37), going 44.51 to qualify for the finals.

“Yeah I don’t know what happened there. I guess the taper worked,’ he said, cracking a smile.

Musterait finished the evening by leading off the 400 free team, which also included senior Triston Loux, his younger brother, Brendon Loux, and Kevin’s younger brother, Cristian Musterait.

“It’s really fun because I got to swim with my little brother — this is the last time I’ll get to swim with him,’ Kevin said. “And I got to swim with my best friend and his brother, which is great because we’ve been swimming together for years and years and years…’

Amazingly, Musterait may have left Bucknell with four medals had it not been for a DQ in the 50 free on Wednesday. He flinched in the morning prelim, leaving him out of finals.

Thursday provided redemption.

With his gold in the 100, he went from being one of the fastest freestylers around to simply the fastest. Musterait led a talented field on Thursday night and was the only swimmer to break 44 seconds. Last year, he narrowly missed the 100 free finals, placing 11th.

“Last year was definitely a wake-up in terms of ‘˜you know what, there are other people out there that are faster than me,” he said, “‘˜so I need to dedicate myself if I really want to do something special for my Souderton team and for myself.”

With 95 points, Souderton finished tied for seventh in Class 3A with Dallastown. La Salle won the team title with 280 points.

North Penn, which also cracked the top 10 with a ninth-place finish (77), won the consolation heat of the 400 free relay with a team of Brett Else, Greg Neidlinger, Liam Kelly and Thanas Kountroubis.

Neidlinger dropped nearly a second off his seed team to earn a spot in Thursday night’s finals of the 100 backstroke, and the senior came through with a sixth-place medal in 50.67.

Kountroubis added additional points for the Knights, placing fourth in the consolation race and 12th overall in the 500 free, touching in 4:36.45.

And then it was time for the Maidens, who scored 93 more points on Day Two to finish third in the team scoring with 189. Hershey won the team title with 279 points, followed by runner-up North Allegheny (235).

The Maidens finished things off in thrilling fashion, as the foursome of Kailyn Evans, Erin O’Neill, Aimee Baur and Tara Rogers swam a National Federation Honor Roll time of 3:29.75, earning bronze in the 400 free relay.

“It was a really fast two days,’ Rogers said of the races. “It was great competition, and it was nice we were actually able to compete with the best.’

Rogers left Bucknell with four state medals, including her sixth-place finish in the 500 free. Headed to Penn State next year, Rogers was a cornerstone for the Maidens the past four seasons, and a major reason they were able to notch their second consecutive third-place finish in the state.

She feels the program is in good shape for next year.

“We had a lot of underclassmen on the team and they all really stepped up,’ Rogers said. “That’s a great thing for the future of the program and I think it’s going great places.

“Our feeder program, the impact that has had – it’s helped us out a lot. I know there are a lot of great kids coming up so it’s definitely gonna build off what we have so far.’

North Penn finished a whopping 74 points ahead of fourth-place Greater Latrobe, thanks in part to junior Olivia DiStefano’s seventh-place finish in the 100 back for NP.

Earlier in the day, the Maidens continued their magic in the diving competition with a pair of state medalists.

For Marie Yacopino, it’s getting to be a habit. And for Madison Tanis, it’s definitely an experience she wants to live through again.

In an extremely tough field — Chartiers Valley’s Maria Lohman set a state record with a winning score of 529.80 — Yacopino managed to place in the top three for the second straight time. Silver medalist as a freshman, Yacopino captured the bronze this year with a 478.40.

The sophomore put on a pretty good show, and her dives were even more refined, more fine-tuned than they were a year ago. She far surpassed her final score of 2013, when she had a 443.35.

“(Placing high last year) kind of made it worse this year because I was a lot more nervous,’ she said with a smile.

But it didn’t show. In fact, Yacopino’s score of 478.40 would have easily won the gold last season, when Lohman topped the field with a 446.20.

Yacopino was part of an amazing top three this year, as she, Lohman and Upper Dublin’s Corey Johnson (485.85) all scored over 475.

“Some dives I thought I did really well,’ Yacopino said, “and some dives I thought I could have done better.’

Tanis earned her first trip to the medal stand, putting on an impressive performance, especially her back and a half that helped vault her into sixth place with a final score of 420.

“Last year, I didn’t make the first cut,’ she said, “so this year I just wanted to make it to finals. I had no idea (if I would medal).’

With how strong her final three dives of the first round were, momentum started to build for the junior.

“I definitely started to feel better about everything,’ she said.

Yacopino and Tanis will be an important tandem next season for the Maidens as they aim to make that final push to first in the Class 3A team scoring.

Also from the area, Central Bucks West’s Quinn MacMillan raced to sixth place in the 100 free (51.15), followed by Pennridge’s Brittany Weiss going 1:05.24 in the 100 breast to place eighth.

The Class 2A Championships get underway Friday morning at Bucknell.

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