District 3 Swimming Championships (copy)

Cumberland Valley’s Logan Skiles is ready for a new start after last season's relay DQ at states.

For two days in mid-March at last year’s PIAA Class 3A Swimming Championships, the Cumberland Valley boys swimming team proved themselves on the state’s biggest stage.

Individually, junior Logan Skiles added to his already impressive résumé finishing in fourth place in the 50 freestyle and 12th in the 100 free. Teammates Tyler Distenfeld and Wade Turlington each medaled in their events, the 500 free and 200 free, respectively.

Those three, along with Kyle Farrow, also banded together to finish in seventh place in the 200 free relay during the Friday portion of the championships.

The team was peaking heading into the final event of the last day of the 2018-19 high school season: the 400 free relay.

The squad once again rose to the occasion appearing to earn an eighth-place medal, however an early take-off by just 0.02 seconds during one of their transitions disqualified the team and its finish.

As Cumberland Valley head coach Mike Gobrecht told The Sentinel that day: “It’s a tough way to finish a meet, but it happens.”

“It was a shocker,” Skiles said. “We were in Lane 1, the one lane you can’t screw anything up. The officials are right there, and they are watching everything you’re doing.”

It would have been easy to focus on the negative and wallow in the miscue. But that is not what the Eagles did on that day or since. Instead, the relay team celebrated its successful season and moved on.

“It was upsetting at first, but we kind of pushed it off,” Skiles said. “It was a way to bond. We all got together and hugged it out. We realized we had a great states. I still remember the car ride home. Every single one of us was singing. It was like nothing even happened.”

That kind of perspective bodes well in the upcoming season for the Cumberland Valley boys team, who once again return a deep, talented roster while reloading some crucial spots lost to graduation.

“We have kids who specialize in all sorts of events,” senior Naeem Sbaiti said. “That’s one of the big things this team has and that I’m most thankful for. We have depth. We just don’t have a few fast kids and then everyone else. We have lots of kids who are really good at what they do. I’m thankful for that diversity.”

“We can definitely carry on the depth and strength of our team,” freshman Owen Brewer said of his younger teammates. “You hear that the team is such a great environment, and you always want to be in the right mindset so you can have a great practice every day. You have to work hard, come to practice, don’t skip, and you’ll do fine.”

Historically, the 400 free relay is a race that has showcased the Eagles’ consistency and prestige of their swimming program. Cumberland Valley had previously finished in the Top 14 in the event at states in each year dating back to 2012, and it would have been eight straight years except for the untimely disqualification.

“I would say that it is our signature relay,” Skiles said. “It’s long, but a really fast, really fun race. It’s definitely a different atmosphere when everyone is going crazy in the stands. You get up on the block, and everything seeps out of you. No one worries about letting each other down. You just swim fast and do well.”

Expectations are once again high as three of the four relay swimmers return for another shot in the same event.

Sbaiti, who finished fifth in the 500 free at last year’s Mid-Penn Championships, will fill the open spot left by Turlington, who graduated in the spring from the talented relay team.

“The preparation for it is simple but complex at the same time,” Skiles said. “The complexity with the relay starts with the transitions, turns and finishes. But when it all comes down to it, if everyone trains hard in practice, you’ll do well.”

Cumberland Valley has one last tune-up against Hempfield in a scrimmage Tuesday at the Natatorium. The Eagles then open the regular season with a tri-meet Friday against Wilson and Dallastown.

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