LEWISBURG >> Alex McKeaney knows the drill at the PIAA Class AA championships.
Where a little experience in the proceedings at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium might ease the minds of some veterans, the Delco Christian sophomore sees it differently, trying to harness the pressure of the occasion.
Friday, it proved effective, with McKeaney qualifying for the finals of the 50 freestyle in 13th place with a preliminary time of 24.42 seconds.
It’s her lifetime best, quicker than the 24.53 posted at the District One Championships. She was slower at night, clocking in at 24.70 to slide to 15th.
McKeaney was ninth last year at states, though fourth-tenths slower than this year. She’ll swim the prelims of the 100 free Saturday morning, which she didn’t make last year.
The progress is part of positive momentum she’s banking on.
“I wouldn’t say easier, but I definitely think there’s a lot more pressure this time,” McKeaney said. “Last time, I didn’t know how far I could get, whereas this time I want to try to prove myself. I definitely think it’s a different experience having the pressure, but I think it’s a lot of fun.”
McKeaney had a limited rest for districts and isn’t fully rested at states. She hoped to break 24 seconds in the 50, but the disappointment was tempered.
One aspect of states she’s grown accustomed to is solitude. She’s the only Delco Christian swimmer at the meet, same as districts. But at La Salle, she had teammates from Radnor Aquatic Club competing for other schools.
At states, it’s just her. But she’s making due.
“I know I have to push myself and I don’t have anyone to pump me up before my races like a teammate,” McKeaney said. “I think that’s harder, not having anyone to do that for me, but at the same time, it’s fun to relax with my family and have my team that way. ”
The other notable swim of the first day of Class AA was Archbishop Carroll’s Sincere Gibbs, who threatened to make finals in the boys 100 butterfly, dropping .12 seconds to finish 22nd in 54.86. Carroll’s Julia Dellaratta dropped nearly a second in the girls 100 fly, bumping to 31st in 1:02.17.
The other Delco swimmers — Bonner & Prendergast’s Luke McDevitt in the 200 free and Jack Ellis in the 200 individual medley plus the 200 free relay of those two, Thomas Lusch and Theodore Greiner — remained rooted in last place. Carroll’s boys 200 free relay of Gibbs, Thomas Patota, Daniel Kline and Matt Crawford benefited from a DQ to elevate to 23rd.