LEWISBURG — The third time is a charm. It may be an old cliche, but it was rather appropriate for Saturday’s PIAA Class 3A swimming and diving championships.
For the third time in as many meets, Cedar Crest’s Logan Smith and Hempfield’s Andre Fissella found themselves battling it out in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Their first meeting came at the Lancaster-Lebanon League championships, where Smith broke the league record en route to gold, winning by 0.2 seconds. They faced off again at the District Three championships, with Smith winning by 0.21 seconds.
So of course they were placed in the same preliminary heat Saturday morning, but this time it was Fissella hitting the wall first. Clocking in at 57.37, the senior grabbed the last spot in the breaststroke final, while Smith had to move into the consolation heat.
Fissella went on to finish eighth overall in the event, clocking a 57.85 to earn an elusive state medal to close out his high school career.
“(It feels) amazing,” the senior said. “After all of these years of being sick and breaking my arm freshman year, it really means a lot after all of the hard work I put in.”
The friendly rivalry with Smith, who finished ninth overall in a personal best 57.27, may have been just the extra push Fissella needed.
“He’s a really good racer,” Fissella said. “He definitely made my senior year for breaststroke my best year ever racing, so I have to really thank him for that. I can’t wait to see what he does next year and and the years after that because he’s going to be a great breaststroker.”
Fissella’s medal was one of three won by L-L swimmers on Saturday, all of which were claimed in the boys meet. Four other locals also made the return trip to Bucknell, swimming in consolation finals.
Manheim Township’s Charlie Gingrich finished eighth in the 100 freestyle at 46.20, adding to the bronze he won in the 100 fly. The senior then marched to the other end of the pool to be the counter for teammate Rob Perot in the 500 freestyle.
Perot edged L-L champion Nick Lynam of Conestoga Valley for the last spot in the final, dropping 5.15 seconds from his seed time and setting a new school record (4:36.51) in the process.
His time may have gone up in the championship heat (4:36.80), but the senior couldn’t have been happier to have his eight-place medal around his neck.
“I felt pretty good in the water, I was really happy,” Perot said. “My previous best from last year was 4:38, so it was two seconds faster than that time. It really couldn’t end any better.”
Lynam made his push in the consolation final, leading the pack until the final 50 yards. Dominic Edwards of Council Rock North pulled away for the win, with Lynam two seconds behind at 4:36.19.
Warwick’s Olly Lance also made it to the consolation heats, finishing 13th overall in the 100 backstroke with a time of 51.68.
Township’s Nico Billoni, who became the first L-L boy to qualify in diving, finished 23rd with a score of 146.10 after five rounds.
In the girls championships, only one L-L swimmer advanced.
Making her PIAA debut, Lampeter-Strasburg’s Catherine Horner swam a personal-best 57.45 in the prelims before finishing 16th overall in 57.96, the same time she posted to win gold at leagues. Both times marked a dramatic drop from the 1:03.42 lifetime best she held at the beginning of the season.
“I just practiced hard and worked a lot on my underwaters,” the junior said. “It’s impressive to me, like I never thought I would be here.”