LEWISBURG — A year ago it seemed inconceivable that Kate Luft would even find herself in the pool this early in the PIAA Class 2A Girls Swimming Championships.
But she found herself staring up from Lane 8 at the giant scoreboard at Bucknell University on Thursday evening, a clear-as-day “5” right next to her name.
The 200 IM was never Luft’s strongest. The backstroke specialist said her PR before this season was around 2:24. But something clicked since last season, enough so to make Luft the proud owner of a fifth-place medal and a new PR of 2:07.38.
“It feels great,” said the sophomore and younger sister of former Polar Bears star Becca Luft, now at Ohio State. “I had no idea I was going that fast.”
The breaststroke was likely the key to Kate Luft’s success in the IM this season, she said, dramatically helping to shave those 17 seconds.
“I would’ve thought they were crazy, honestly,” said Luft when asked how’d she’d respond if someone told her in the preseason she’d be on the podium in the IM at Bucknell. “I would not have believed them.”
Big sis, currently on spring break, got to see the younger Luft show off her prowess in the backstroke portion — she enters Friday’s 100 back as the No. 2 seed — by jumping all the way to second. The push helped her significantly to secure her first IM medal in her first go in the event at states. She felt at her best in the first half of the race: the butterfly and her signature backstroke.
It’s also her first individual state medal, having finished ninth last year as a freshman in the back.
“I think it’s a little bit of a confidence boost,” said an all-smiles Luft, who has the back and 400 free relay to swim in Day 2 of the 2A championships. “I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Trinity’s Sarah Wyant was the highest individual finisher in the girls’ session other than Luft, claiming 12th in the 50 free (24.54).
The Polar Bears also got 16th in the 200 free relay (1:41.60). Shippensburg freshmen Madison Osanitsch (200 free, 1:59.90) and Makenna Morris (200 IM, 2:16.52), put in solid times in their PIAA debuts. Both swim in the 500 free Friday.
Among some of the top boys finishers Thursday were Greg Kinch (Big Spring) taking 14th in the 50 free in 21.64 and Boiling Springs’ Billy Webber finishing 10th in the 200 free in 1:44.15. Webber also helped the Bubblers to a 13th-place finish in the 200 medley relay (1:40.92).