Albert's golden moment
BY PETE KAUFFMAN, Sports Writer
LEWISBURG -- The dream became a reality for Everett Albert.
Lancaster Catholic's versatile senior earned the fifth state swimming gold medal in school history when he won the 200-yard individual medley in a school-record 1:53.72 during Wednesday's opening night of competition at the PIAA Class AA Swimming and Diving Championships.
"I've played this moment out in my head, imagining myself on the top step (of the awards platform),'' Albert said. "This is great that my dream came true. To reach everything that I've worked for is like a fairytale ending.''
Albert, though, could just be getting started as he will compete in the 500 freestyle when the meet resumes at 8 this morning at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium.
"It was amazing watching him,'' said Catholic first-year coach Miles Cubbison. "He was right where we wanted him after the first 100 (completing the butterfly and backstroke legs), then he dropped (his time) abut a second in the breast(stroke) and another half-second in the freestyle.''
Albert is just the third swimmer in Crusaders history to mine state gold, joining Andrew Thorn and Paula Stein. Stein won the 100 breaststroke in 1973, while Thorn won the 500 free in 2003, then claimed both the 200 and 500 freestyle races in 2004.
"It feels really good, but not just for me,'' Albert said of adding another gold medal to the Catholic legacy. "Winning states, it not only brings attention to your name, but to your school's name, too.''
The Crusaders had quite a cheering section Wednesday, and plenty to celebrate.
Junior Zack Miklos took 16th in the consolation heat of the 200 free in 1:48.65 Wednesday night. He set a personal best by going 1:47.18 during Wednesday morning's preliminaries. Drew Damich of Chartiers Valley won the event in 1:40.52.
Miklos and Albert also teamed with Brendon Schrantz and Ethan Cubbison to place 14th in the 200 freestyle relay. Franklin's Andy Frederick, Quinn Heffern, Isaac Cook and Phil Emerson won it in 1:27.24. Emerson also won the 50 free in 20.90.
Northern Lebanon junior Ethan Gehenio won the consolation heat of the 200 IM in 2:00.11 to place ninth, while Manheim Central freshman Matthew Daniel was 16th in 2:04.03.
Albert, though, stole the show and used his trademark back end of the event to pull out the win in the individual medley ahead of Bellefonte senior Andrew Rosenberger (1:55.14) and Mars junior Christopher Georgiadis (1:56.49).
Albert set the previous Catholic record of 1:54.56 in the event when he placed third here last year, finishing just ahead of Georgiadis (1:56.71).
"I bent over and told (Georgiadis) that this was going to be his race next year,'' Albert said.
This year, though, Albert was not about to let anyone spoil his quest for his first state championship.
"I didn't think I started off too great, but I saw after back(stroke) that I think I was in the lead,'' Albert said of how the race unfolded. "Going into breast I hit a great bucket turn, and that's when I think I excel, the breast and free. That last 100 for me is where I make it or break it.''
Miles Cubbison noticed the strong final 100 as well.
"The way he accelerated at the end, you just kind of knew it was going to happen,'' Cubbison said of Albert grabbing the gold. "He looked like he got shot out of a cannon the second half of his last length (of the pool) in free.''
The girls' meet, meanwhile, opened like a volley of cannon fire with four straight meet records.
The Villa Maria team of freshman Emily Cornell, junior Olivia Tierney, senior Lauren Law and senior Sarah Hitchens combined for a 1:45.81 in the 200 medley relay, taking down the standard of 1:46.89 set by Central Columbia last year. Hitchens then added a state record in the 50 freestyle in 22.91, taking out the mark of 23.16 by Bloomsburg's Stef Williams in 1998.
Mifflinburg junior Adrianna Grabski followed by clocking 1:47.05 in the 200 free, erasing the record of 1:47.37, also set by Bloomsburg's Williams in 1998. Grabski won the 50 free last year in 23.20, but elected to swim the 200 this season.
Keeping with the theme, Gwynedd Mercy freshman Allie Szekely hit the wall in 1:59.66 to take out Madison Burns of Northwestern Lehigh's previous best of 2:00.48 from 2011. Northern Lebanon freshman Orianna Barone placed 21st in the IM in 2:16.14.
The string ended in the 100 butterfly, which Mars senior Margaret Gruber won for the second straight year. Gruber was timed in 54.35 this season after going 53.50 a year ago.
York Suburban's quartet of senior Zowie Day, freshman Carson Gross, sophomore Anna Schmittle and senior Erin Merkle won the 200 free relay in 1:37.55.
Villa Maria (149) and Central Columbia (98), which finished 1-2 last year, lead the girls' team standings after the first day.
Other boys winners were Fairview's Robert Sikatzki (49.98) who barely edged Salibury's Eric Tatum (49.99) in the 100 butterfly, and the Bellefonte team of Colton Schnars, Rosenberger, Isaac Thomas and Frank Aberegg, who won the 200 medley relay in 1:36.84.