LEWISBURG — Ethan Shonk knew he had something left for his final high school swim Saturday evening at Bucknell University.
The Donegal senior knew he was swimming for PIAA Class 2A championship hardware in the 100-yard backstroke and left nothing to chance.
Shonk hit the water ready, cut time from his morning preliminary swim, and came away with a bronze medal after his time of 51.18 seconds.
“I wanted to go under 51, but I am still happy with my split,” he said. “I dropped time and I had a fun time. I am happy with how I finished my high school career swimming-wise.”
Relaxed as usual, Shonk swam faster than all but two competitors, including Riverside’s Jo Roth, who broke a state record with his time of 48.44.
“That was a great swim by Jo,” Shonk said. “He’s a fantastic swimmer and it was a pleasure swimming beside him. It’s remarkable he’s only a sophomore.”
Donegal coach Isaac Greene said the camaraderie between swimmers helped Shonk excel.
“He’s got a good relationship with a lot of swimmers here,” Greene said. “It’s neat to see how these boys make friends, even though they are competitors.”
Early in the day, Shonk’s 51.36 preliminary put him into the championship finals.
“I was a little nervous in prelims, I don’t know why,” he said. “In finals, not as much, because it was my last swim and I used pretty much what I had in the tank.”
That even-keel disposition helps Shonk, who also swims for the Lancaster Aquatic Club.
“I think one of his quotes when we had senior night was: ‘Make sure you have fun, and don’t take it too seriously,’” Greene said. “What happens is when something doesn’t go his way, he doesn’t take it too seriously. He just moves on and that’s how he gets better.”
Greene added that swimmers such as Shonk have been motivated by missing the 2020 2A state meet, along with the reduced qualifying field last year because of COVID-19.
“These boys were affected by COVID, but they have this sweet last year, where they have a chance after they missed out,” the coach said. “They are putting it all together.”
Only a sophomore, Lampeter-Strasburg’s Zara Paisley wasn’t ready for her first PIAA meet to end, and her morning 100 freestyle swim of 54.32 was good enough to come back for an evening swim.
She then crushed it in the consolation finals.
Surprising even herself, Paisley broke 54 seconds for the first time and finished in 13th place overall after her swim of 53.95.
“I was expecting to get a low 54 and then out of nowhere, a 53. That made me really excited,” she said. “The opportunity to be here was just awesome.
Paisley improved at the right time, even to the end as shown by her .37 drop from the morning.
“I think it was that I had been wanting to get that 53 for a while,” she said. “Getting little tips here and there from my previous swims and watching videos has been helping me visualize and work on what I need — those little things that help me drop time.”
Pioneers teammate and fellow sophomore Kylie Gerhardt finished 25th overall in the 100 backstroke with a 1:02.62.
Donegal junior Sierra Houck used a lot of energy in earning her second trip to consolations on the weekend. One day after swimming the 50 freestyle twice, she did the same thing in the 100 free after her preliminary swim of 54.20.
Houck said Saturday’s extra swim was a bonus, and she finished in 16th place with a 54.71.
“I am super happy with how it turned out. I wasn’t even expecting to make the finals,” she said. “I was thinking I could make it back in the 50. After I swam the 100, I actually thought I was done and Isaac was like, ‘You made it back.’”
Now Houck is looking forward to next season and a return to states.
“I am really excited to see what I can do my senior year,” she said. “It’s nice I have one more chance at it and I’m happy to see my progress since freshman year.”
Indians teammates and fellow juniors Grant Leibfried and Kylie Wilkinson also swam on Saturday. Leibfried was 27th (49.52) in the boys 100 free and Wilkinson 29th in the girls 500 free (5:32.89).
For the second time in as many days, Cocalico’s boys relay foursome of Logan Sensenig, Evan Zeni, Ryan Brubaker and Andrew Seprinski dropped from their seed time.
On Saturday, it was the 400 free relay, in which the Eagles capped their season with a best time of 3:28.78. Their drop of 1.39 seconds helped them to a 21st-place finish.
The swim also closed the high school swimming career of football standout Ryan Brubaker, who is headed to play at NCAA Division I South Carolina.
“They keep on surprising me, especially the 400,” Cocalico coach Wendy Enck said one day after the boys dropped time in the 200 free relay.”