Just like in wrestling, swimming at the scholastic level becomes very much an individual sport once the postseason begins.
Athletes, once they get this far, are looking at medals and personal bests to cap off their campaign, and eight area swimmers are in that frame of mind with the upcoming PIAA state championships taking place this week at Bucknell University.
Competing in the Class AAA meet, slated for this Friday and Saturday, are Altoona's Alex Cummings and Danielle Parowski and Hollidaysburg's Sarah Kaneshiki and Mace Long. Competing in the Class AA meet, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, are Central's Drake Dodson, Cambria Heights' Nick Galczynski, Central Cambria's Kelsie Conrad and Huntingdon's Matt Bair.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
The area’s high school swimmers who will be at the state meet will be (from left): First row—Nick Galczynski, Kelsie Conrad, Sarah Kaneshiki. Second row—Alex Cummings, Danielle Parowski, Matt Bair, Mace Long, Drake Dodson.
Parowski, who competed at states last year, will swim in the 100 and 200 freestyle. The junior is seeded in the top eight in both events.
"We would love a top three finish," Altoona coach Andy Smearman said. "That would be spectacular, but anywhere in the top eight is remarkable for swimming in this state."
Parowski, who is making her third trip to Bucknell, has also swum in big meets with programs involving US Swimming and the YMCA.
"I would love to place in the top three if I could," she said. "The 100 is the one event where my time is better and it is my better race, but I definitely want to try and place in the top eight in both of them."
Cummings, a senior, is making his first trip to states. He will compete in the 100 breaststroke.
"I want to come out at least in the top 16 and take down the school record in the breaststroke," said Cummings, who admitted he believes he'll be a little nervous prior to the event. "I just try to imagine what I am going to do, take a picture of the race in my head. I try to calm myself down with the music I listen to on my IPOD."
For the Golden Tigers, Kaneshiki is making her fourth trip to states. She will compete in the 500 freestyle.
"I want her to make it in the top 16. I think she definitely has the ability to do that," Hollidaysburg coach Deb Solomon said.
Long, a freshman making his first trip to states, will compete in both the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly. He admitted to having an affinity for both events.
"I think this could be kind of fun because it's my first time," he said. "I am going to try to get some faster times and I want to try and make the top 16."
Dodson, a senior, has qualified for states three straight years, though last year he could not attend because of a scholastic function involving a mock trial team. That won't be a problem this year.
"I think he'll be fine. He's always been pretty level headed. Big meets don't seem to bother him," Central coach Amanda Herr said.
Dodson will compete in the 100 backstroke.
"I'm looking to try and get a personal best and hopefully that will get me into the top 16 which means I can swim another day," he said.
Galczynski, a senior, is headed to states for the first time. He will swim in the 100 butterfly.
"I think the nervous part was just getting there, but I am looking to get my time down to about 54 seconds. That would be a personal best," he said.
Galczynski's mom will be there, but then she has to be there. She's also Heights' head coach.
"I am probably harder on him," Valerie Galczynski laughed. "You don't want to be a parent, you want to be a coach, but it's hard on him, too. He not only wants to do well, but he wants to please mom, too."
Conrad, a junior, will compete in the 100 backstroke for the Red Devils.
"I would really like to drop at least a second off my time and break our school record [1:01.85]," Conrad said. "I could work on my starts, turns, finishes, because those are important parts of the race."
Central Cambria coach Ann Risaliti said she's curious to see how Conrad responds to the atmosphere at states.
"The biggest thing I want her to accomplish is to repeat her time from districts [1:03.23] and maybe go a little faster," she said.
Bair, a sophomore for the Bearcats, is going to states for the first time, but head coach Melanie Varner doesn't think that will be a bother.
"I have been swimming for 40 years, and it would make me nervous for something like this but he is used to big meets with YMCA-type events," she said.
Bair will compete in the 50 and 100 freestyle events.
"I like to do the 50 more because I like the sprint, the short fast events," he said. "I am just looking at it as another opportunity to try and better my time. As long as I better my time, I will be happy. That's my goal."