LEWISBURG >> Just after Radnor’s 400 freestyle relay qualified for finals Thursday afternoon, Patrick Cullen’s mind started to wander.
How quick, he and his relay mates inquired, will this team, a collection of all four classes, look next year? Or in two years?
Thursday’s performance was a fine launching point for optimistic hypotheticals.
Radnor’s relay represented the only Delaware County finals swim of the second night of the PIAA Championships, finishing 15th in the final with a time of 3 minutes, 13.69 seconds at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium.
“We were really excited because this morning we thought it was going to be our last race, so we got pretty emotional about that, but we ended up making it back,” Cullen said. “We were really excited to get back here and get another chance to swim our hearts out. … The atmosphere really drove us to swim all our bests.”
As they had all season, the foursome served as a microcosm for Radnor’s success.
Radnor qualified for finals with relative ease, setting a quick time in the prelims’ first heat of three, though settling for sixth in 3:13.07, a half-second quicker than its District One time.
Patience paid off for the team that made states as the last at-large qualifier, as the next two thin heats produced no snags for the team of Cullen, Greg Giannella, Clayton Bowes and James El-Deiry. They beat half of the next heat, bounding another spot when Hershey jumped early, then waited out a leisurely final heat to glide into 13th.
Even if a final swim hadn’t materialized, the participants were at peace with their swim.
“It could’ve been my last swim ever, so we were all just trying to make it a good swim, especially because it could’ve been the last swim of the season for all of us,” Bowes, the lone senior, said in the morning. “We didn’t really think too much of the B final, we just tried to put it all out there.”
In finals, coach Tom Robinson stuck with the front-loaded lineup that he deployed to combat an outside-lane position in prelims, shifting Cullen to leadoff and Giannella to second.
The swim caps a remarkable season for Radnor. For the first time since promotion to Class AAA in 2009, Radnor sent all three relays to states. Two made finals, with the 200 free taking 12th Wednesday.
That team success belied the dearth of individual accolades: No Raider qualified for a final at Bucknell. They produced just three individual entrants — Giannella in the 50 and 100 free and El-Deiry in the 200 individual medley. Giannella finished a disappointing 30th in the longer sprint Thursday.
That puts Radnor in stark contrast to say, star-driven rival Conestoga, which featured two-time finalists Brian McKenrick and Brendan Burns. Yet Radnor still displayed the depth to avenge a dual-meet loss to the Pioneers by winning the Central League meet in home water. They aren’t senior-heavy either, though Bowes, Steve Chen and Steve Giannella all swam on states relays.
That youthful foundation provides plenty of fodder to plot a bold course over the next few years.
“We have really big hopes for ourselves to improve and keep getting better as we age up,” the freshman Cullen said. “Me and James have been talking that we really want to work hard in the offseason so we can come back next year and the year after that and swim really fast times.”
Like Giannella, the other two individual swimmers from Delco met disappointing fates Thursday. In the 500, Strath Haven’s Will Resweber placed 23rd in 4:45.13, while Haverford’s Collin Pettit landed 26th (4:46.93).
For the freshman Resweber, the first journey is all about gaining experience to inspire future states runs.
“I’m happy to be here as a freshman because it means next year, I know that I can make it here again and I can keep on coming each year,” he said. “… I was a little bit intimidated at first, but (coach) Dina (Dormer) just told me to have fun with my swim, and that took all the pressure off.”