It’s been a long, fallow period for boys from Delaware County at the PIAA Championships. Not since Shane Ryan won four gold medals from 2010-12 has a Delaware County boys swimmer reached the top step of the podium – swimmer or diver, Class 3A or 2A.
Friday and Saturday, a special cohort of swimmers made up for lost time in a hurry.
Ridley’s Shane Eckler did the sprint double at the PIAA Class 3A Championships, leading five gold medals from Delco. More impressive was two 1-2 finishes, Eckler followed by Springfield’s Jake Kennedy in the 50, then Kennedy winning the 100 backstroke with Penncrest’s Jonathan Hoole second.
Kennedy anchored the winning 200 free relay, which also included 100 fly champ Jacob Johnson.
The dynamic between Eckler and Kennedy is particularly telling. They train together at Ridley YMCA. A year ago, Kennedy, the Daily Times Swimmer of the Year, finished sixth in the 50 free and 12th in the 100 free. Eckler was 14th in the 100 free and didn’t final in the 50. Eckler won the District 1 title in the 50 with Kennedy third last month.
At Bucknell, Eckler qualified first from prelims in 20.49, with Kennedy second in 20.65. In the final, Eckler pulled away to win in 20.14 seconds. Kennedy was second in 20.41.
“I practice with him and race him every single day,” Eckler said. “So I feel like when we come here, it’s like we’re swimming a practice, being next to each other in the 50 free final at states.”
“I love swimming with him and racing with him,” Kennedy said. “He gets me back from other years that I’ve been beating him. It’s a good race, good fight between both of us.”
Eckler carried more pressure in the 100 free, having set the top time in prelims and having the 50 free title under his belt. But it didn’t seem to stop him. He was .48 seconds faster at night to win in 44.21.
“I just kind of swim the 100 free like, you know, I’m going to swim a 50 free and then at the end, I’m going to do it again,” Eckler said.
Eckler is Ridley’s first state swimming champion, boys or girls, joining only Josh Bonner’s diving titles in 2003 and 2004. Eckler also helped get a pair of Ridley relays to states, the 200 medley and 200 free both finishing 23rd.
“I’m really proud of getting Ridley out there a little bit more, and I’m really glad that I’m the person that’s able to give Ridley a little bigger name,” Eckler said. “I want to put us on the map a little bit more.”
Ridley added another medal in girls diving Friday, with Jolie Torrens finishing eighth. She scored 211.75 points, easily clear of the ninth-place finisher, to get on the podium. Teammate Ava Keller finished 14th.
Springfield’s 200 free relay on Friday qualified first by eight tenths in prelims in 1:23.95, 1.5 seconds quicker than at districts. They found another half-second in the evening to make it a laugher, winning by a full second, Johnson and Kennedy joined by Alex Chan and Luke Kennedy. Johnson split 20.65 seconds; Jake Kennedy’s split of 19.82 on the anchor was the best of the meet.
“I’m very happy about that,” Kennedy said. “I’ve got 20.0 three or four times now, and I don’t have the best starts – I’m usually a pretty safe starter – but very glad I could get under 20.”
A year ago, Johnson had made the A final in the 100 fly in third but had a disappointing night swim, sliding to third. This time, he was the top seed out of prelims by nearly two seconds. He was .06 slower at night, but his 47.58 still blew the field away by more than a second. Johnson also won the B final of the 100 free on Saturday in 45.98 for ninth overall.
With the chance to experience an individual podium and a relay podium, Johnson knows which he preferred.
“It’s a lot of fun because you’re up there celebrating with all your friends,” he said. “You’re friends with the other relays, it’s just a really happy environment.”
Kennedy opted for the 100 back as his Saturday event this season.
“I saw the 100 this year and I was looking at times to see which one I had a better chance at,” he said. “It was a hard decision to make because I wasn’t sure if someone was going to drop a really good time in the 100 back. I was just taking a shot at the 100 back and thought I had a better chance at winning.”
The strategy paid off. He qualified fourth in a crowded prelims heat, with Hoole sixth. But Kennedy sped away in the final in 49.43 to get the victory. Hoole followed in second in 49.66.
In addition to his silver medal, Hoole finished ninth in the 50 free, winning the B final in 20.84. That dropped a half-second from his prelims time; had he done that in the morning, he would’ve qualified fifth.
• • •
Katya Eruslanova won the 200 IM at states each of the last two years. But this season, the Haverford senior opted to switch it up.
Instead, her Friday event would be the 200 free, an event which might offer more upside when she continues her career at the University of Pennsylvania. And while she wishes things might have turned out a tad better, she can’t complain about two silver medals to bring her career tally in states to eight.
“It was really fun to give that one a go,” she said. “We had a lot of people up from our team, so this was more about the experience with my teammates and all of that.”
Eruslanova went 1:49.04 in the 200 free, two seconds shy of Muhlenberg’s Sydney Gring but a best time for Eruslanova. She added a silver in the 500 free in 4:52.23. It’s an event she won last year. This year, she was behind North Penn’s Madeline Faikish, who went 4:49.36. As a freshman, Faikish had been 15th last year.
Eruslanova also set a flat-start time in the 100 free (50.94) on the 400 free relay that would’ve finished fifth in the individual event. The Fords took 13th in that event. Her 24.16 off the front of the 200 free relay, which got disqualified in the B final at night, would’ve made the B final.
All of which is to say, Eruslanova returns from her final Bucknell trip with plenty to be proud of.
“Freshman year, I don’t think I ever would’ve been here,” she said. “I don’t remember hearing about states in middle school, so being here was like, oh my gosh. This was just not somewhere I thought I’d be.”
• • •
On Friday, Springfield’s Mary Kubiak finished 15th in the 50 free in 24.50, .05 slower than she’d been in the morning. Garnet Valley sophomore Zoey Rogers pushed into the B final in the 100 fly, finishing 12th in 57.36. That was eighth tenths quicker than she had gone in the morning.
Kubiak finished 11th in the 100 backstroke on Saturday, with a time of 57.27 seconds. Radnor’s Marina Wang was 13th in the event, .36 seconds quicker than in prelims in 57.32.
Delco teams crowded the girls 200 medley relay B final, with Garnet Valley finishing 13th, Springfield 14th and Radnor 15th. Springfield just missed a second swim in the 400 free relay as the first alternate in 17th place.
Haverford’s Sarah Krissinger finished 20th in the 50 free, missing out on finals by a tenth. Annie Lindgren of Radnor was the second alternate in the 100 fly, 18th overall, the same place occupied by Springfield’s Michelle Kubiak in the 500 free on Saturday. Mallorie Jeremiah of Garnet Valley was 22nd in that event. Springfield freshman Addyson Despeaux likewise missed out on the final in the 100 back in 20th place.
• • •
Strath Haven’s Gavin Shifflett picked up a pair of second swims on the weekend. The sophomore snuck into the 16th and final spot in the 200 free, then crept up two spots to 14th overall by dropping nearly a half a second Friday evening in a time of 1:43.01. He finished ninth in the morning in the 500 free and landed 10th overall, despite speeding up in the evening by 1.5 seconds to 4:36.32.
Haverford senior Kyle Given wrapped up his career by winning the B final of the 100 fly. He matched his prelim time at night in 51.17. Given just missed out on another second swim by finishing 19th in the 100 back, and the Fords’ 400 free relay tied for 25th place.
Radnor’s Andrew Yu tied for 22nd in the 50 free.
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