Truax lights out on his way to repeat win in 100 breast

RADNOR — The tutelage from first-year Marple Newtown coach Tom Keer to junior Johnny Truax has been limited to finer points and small tweaks. One lesson in particular, though, resonates with Truax.

“Just those two words he says,’ Truax said Saturday. “‘ Lights out.”

Truax was appropriately lights out Saturday, pulling away from the field in the 100 breaststroke to win his second straight Central League championship at Radnor High School. Truax stopped the clock in 1:01.34, .10 shy of his seed time and a touch slower than the 1:00.82 he tuned in a season ago.

Haverford’s Zack Nelson was second, and Radnor’s Keenan Doyle used a fast time in the second-to-last heat to finish third.

The irony of Keer’s words is that he feels Truax is at his best when he’s a little more restrained in attacking the event. There have been instances where Truax has been too aggressive in the event, which prioritizes finesse and economical movement over brute force, leaving him spent for the second 50. While Truax said his mentality was to sprint from the start Saturday, his splits of 28.8 and 32.5 are closer to how Keer would rather he approach it, with a greater focus on the back half of the race.

Truax does most of his training with Suburban Swim Club, so for Keer, it’s just a matter of adding a little extra polish. Part of that is the mental aspect, getting Truax to channel his pre-race nerves constructively rather than wasting that precious energy from the start. He succeeded in that Saturday.

“I think getting nervous is just the normal thing that happens to get you ready to go,’ Truax said. “It helps you do what you can do, and I left it all in the pool.’

While Truax controlled the pack in the 100 breast, there was a surprise of sorts in the 100 backstroke. It wasn’t that Radnor’s Eli Avart, the top seed by almost five seconds, cruised to victory in 53.82 by more than a body length. It’s that second was Ridley’s Donnie Taziole, swimming out of Lane 1. The sophomore surprised the field with a little outside smoke, clocking in at 55.27 seconds to secure a District One automatic cut.

“Off the 50 (wall), I looked over and I saw that everyone was tight together,’ Taziole said. “I knew in the last 50 I was going to have to get it moving.’

The comfort on the outside is a beneficial trait for the postseason. While most dual meets afford Taziole the comfort of a middle lane, postseason seedings make lane placement hit-or-miss. Staying out of other swimmers’ wakes and finding clean water in an outside lane is vital.

“I like being in an outside lane,’ he said. “No one really thinks about you when you’re in an outside lane. They’re always looking next to each other.’

Radnor continued its dominance, as Tim Caulfield’s win in the 100 free with an authoritative time of 48.75 joined Avart’s among the individual wins. More impressive was that four of the top six in the 100 free hailed from Radnor. That translated into a predictably dominant 400 free relay, Caulfield anchoring the squad of Richard Patten, Clayton Bowes and Greg Giannella to a win by close to two seconds.

Ivan Michalovic added a farewell win to his ledger, the Garnet Valley senior and Seton Hall signee distancing himself early in the 500 free and staying away, shutting down the engines early for a time of 4:50.47.

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