SILVER SPRING TOWNSHIP — As Day 1 of the Mid-Penn Conference Swimming Championships wound down with the final event Friday night, the boys 200 freestyle relay, Cumberland Valley’s Logan Skiles stood on the blocks waiting for teammate Kyle Farrow.
State College had front-loaded their team to put their two best swimmers out first. It was a strategy that paced the Little Lions to a second-and-a-half lead over the Eagles’ efforts by Wade Turlington and Tyler Distenfeld.
But Farrow cut into the deficit to give Skiles a chance to chase down the lead as Cumberland Valley’s hopes rested on their anchor. The junior proceeded to swim the fastest leg, 20.46 seconds, of anyone in the race to give the Eagles the victory.
“We were all really excited for that relay,” Skiles said. “It was all important to us because it was our first year doing the 200 free relay. In the past, we’ve done the 200 medley and the 400 free relay, but this year we decided we were going to do the 200 free relay. It’s worked out.”
Earlier, Skiles defended his title from a year ago in the 100 butterfly as the junior swam 50.65 to top Chambersburg’s CJ Pong.
“I always put goals on myself,” Skiles said. “I wanted to try and break the record, which I think was 51.00, so I got that. There’s always that little bit in your mind where you worry about what could happen. But I was happy with the race.”
Last year’s Mid-Penn victory was just the start for Skiles, as the then-sophomore took home the District 3 title in the same event before finishing 14th in the PIAA Class 3A finals.
“Last year’s experience helped me set a lot of fast goals for this season,” Skiles said. “It’s nice to see how I’m progressing.”
The expectations on Northern’s Kate Luft are high for her senior season.
One of the area’s best and most decorated swimmers, the senior lived up to each of them on the first day of the Mid-Penn Championships.
Luft led her 200 medley relay team to third place before bringing home two first-place finishes for herself, outdueling Cumberland Valley’s Carolyn Bolden in the 200 free and Hershey’s Ally Weller in the 100 butterfly.
“I’m really happy with how the relay performed especially since we had a couple of last minute changes,” Luft said. “Individually, I’m really happy because I dropped a lot of time.”
Luft, the reigning PIAA Class 2A champion in the 100 backstroke, is headed to swim next year at the University of South Carolina. But before that, she still has the District 3 and state championships in her sights and has to be considered a prohibitive favorite to repeat.
“It’s a definitely a mental thing that I’ve struggled with, but now it’s a motivator,” she said. “I like being on the back of a relay and gunning for other people or having them gun for me. I think it actually pushes me to do my best.”
Same time, different result
In last year’s 200 individual medley, Cedar Cliff’s Zack Gallagher finished second by only .03 seconds, swimming to a 1:55.60.
This year, he posted the exact same time, but this time it was more than enough to claim first place as the senior easily outpaced the competition on the way to the victory.
“I’m a little tired because we haven’t tapered yet,” Gallagher said. “We’ve still been lifting and all. But I figured I’d give it my all, shave, put on a suit. Overall, I’m pretty happy.”
Gallagher set the pace from the horn and dominated on his way to the three-plus second victory. He topped all other swimmers posting the fastest times in the first three strokes (fly, back and breast) before cruising to the finish.
“It feels pretty good,” Gallagher said about winning as a senior. “I’m a grade ahead. I kind of wish I wasn’t so I would have another year of high school swimming, but I’ll take it.”
Carlisle’s Isaiah Bell finished second in the 50 free behind Matt Brownstead of State College, who set a new Mid-Penn record with a 20.74 time. … Despite a strong race, Cumberland Valley’s girls 200 free relay team had to settle for second place behind a record-setting pace from Hershey.