Giannella gets it done leading off for Radnor

PHILADELPHIA — It wasn’t until about 20 minutes before the Radnor 400 freestyle relay Friday evening that the Raiders’ foursome was set, a consequence and benefit of the tremendous freestyle depth coach Tom Robinson has at his disposal.

So when Steve Giannella finished a so-so swim in the 100 backstroke where he was four tenths of a second slower than his seed time, Robinson didn’t think twice about subbing in Giannella’s brother, Greg.

That choice paid off for Radnor, with the team of Greg Giannella, Clayton Bowes, Richard Patten and Tim Caulfield finishing sixth in 3 minutes, 12.59 seconds at the District One Class AAA Championships, essentially assuring the Raiders a spot in the PIAA Championships.

The top five relays get automatic berths in states alongside the top eight at-large teams statewide. With the final at-large clocking in at 3:13.17 last year, the Raiders appear to be in good shape.

Greg Giannella was especially impressive in the relay. After going 49.28 en route to 30th place in the 100 free, Giannella rode the intensity of the moment to lead off the relay with a 48.92.

“It was more about the pressure that we had to make states and that that was the final swim,’ Giannella said. “My swim, it was a big deciding factor of us making states, and it was just the pressure.’

Greg admitted that the competition between he and his brother, a junior who finished the 100 back in 55.90 seconds to claim 21st place and had gone 50.0 at the last-chance meet, isn’t always easy. But it’s par for the course on Radnor’s deep team.

“I was having doubts going into it,’ the sophomore Greg Giannella said. “I had to take my brother out of the relay, and that was really hard for me to do. But I deserved it. Not to put him down, but I deserved it, and I did what I needed to do and I got on the relay that way.’

Waiting in the wings was Caulfield, who went 47.77 in the 100 free to finish 10th, giving him an outside shot at states. The senior knew he’d be charged with anchor duties and that he’d probably be behind in the second-to-last heat, tasking him with chasing Perkiomen Valley anchor Kyle Dix (second in the 100 free).

Caulfield rose to the challenge, and while he didn’t catch Dix, he produced a dynamite split of 47.02 that got Radnor into the states conversation.

“I love that situation,’ Caulfield said. “I love the competitive nature of it. I love swimming fast people.’

The likely states berth for the 400 free relay culminates a stellar meet for the Raiders. With a fourth-place 200 free relay that earned a states auto bid and the medley relay that finished ninth, Radnor joined team champion North Penn and runner-up Upper Dublin as the only schools with three top-10 relays.

Radnor accumulated 135 points, good for fourth, one behind Wissahickon. That point total included Eli Avart taking seventh in the 100 backstroke in 52.63, likely good for states, and Richard Patten finishing 12th in the 500.

Team-wise, it’s the highest ever finish for Radnor in Class AAA. It’s also the highest team finish since 1989, when Radnor earned third place at districts when it was just one meet.

The culminating relay triumph ensures that the Radnor wave has at least one more meet to go.

“It means a lot,’ Caulfield said. “Our 200 free relay, we knew we could get to states, but this was a long shot to get to states in the 400 free relay. We were surprised, and we were really happy to get to states and we’re going to do really well at states.’

• • •

Waiting was the theme of the day for the Delco boys, which earned no automatic states berths. Garnet Valley’s Ivan Michalovic was a place and .01 behind Avart in the 100 back in 52.64. With the at-large threshold at 53.19 last year, he’s a decent bet to make states.

Less certain is Marple Newtown’s Johnny Truax, who finished eighth in the 100 breast in a personal-best time of 59.93 seconds. The placing is encouraging, but the final at-large berth to states last year was 59.95 and even faster in 2013 (59.88).

Beyond those two, Patten and Caulfield, the only other Delco participants to score points Friday were Marple Newtown’s Dylan Keer in the 500 and Penncrest’s 400 free relay, each in 15th place.

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