13 area athletes heading to Bucknell for states

There aren’t a lot of folks who believe that 13 is a lucky number, but there are 13 area swimmers who are hoping that a little luck is on their side as they head to Bucknell University this week for the PIAA Diving and Swimming Championships.

For Hollidaysburg, Conor McKeirnan is competing in the 3A event on Friday while Huntingdon’s Haley Goldstone, Nick Buckley, Andrew Edwards, Ben Atherton, Marshall Lowe and Colby Grubb, Tyrone’s Jake Decker, Matt Lenze, Songmian Wang and Parker Bayard, along with Central’s Christopher Bush and Jackson Jeffries, will compete in the 2A competition on Wednesday and Thursday.

McKeirnan is making his second trip to states as a junior.

“Obviously, being down there the first time was a learning experience. I think he will be more confident going this year,” Hollidaysburg coach Deb Solomon said. “I am not worried about him being overwhelmed by the situation.”

He will compete in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly, where he is seeded 30th in both events.

“He will have competed against several of these kids in the western regionals,” Solomon said. “Conor did make nationals last year and I am sure there were several swimmers from the state that would have been there.”

Central’s two swimmers, Bush, a senior, and Jeffries, a sophomore, are in a unique position because there is no team out in the Cove. The two have each other and coach Destarta Carberry and that’s it.

“They are just two independent swimmers. They work at a different angle because they just have each other and there is no team, no relay team. They swim for themselves,” Carberry said.

Bush, a senior, swims the 200 individual medley on Wednesday. Jeffries swims the 50 freestyle on Wednesday and the 100 freestyle on Thursday.

“I want them to focus on the event they are in. Be the best swimmer you can be,” Carberry said. “You can go into this because you earned the right to be there. Make the most of it and use it as a learning tool.”

Tyrone’s 200 medley relay team is comprised of Jake Decker, Matt Lenze, Songmian Wang and Parker Bayard. Decker is a senior, Lenze a junior and Bayard and Wang are freshmen. Coach Tom Getz thinks the difference in ages has made for a nice team this season.

“For Jake, you have good experience, and we have freshmen, an exchange student with different backgrounds and now they all came together … it’s like they’ve been swimming this event for years,” he said.

Being seeded 30th hasn’t left the team feeling down either according to their coach.

“Getting there is quite an accomplishment,” Getz said. “We might use that as a little motivation to improve upon that and get a better time or finish.”

Huntingdon, coming off a District 6 boys title, will be busy for two days. Buckley swims the 50 freestyle on Wednesday and the 100 freestyle Thursday. Edwards, Atherton, Grubb and Buckley swim the 200 free relay Wednesday while Edwards, Atherton, Lowe and Buckley swim the 400 free relay Thursday. And don’t forget Goldstone, who swims the 50 free on Wednesday and the 100 free on Thursday.

“Four of our six went to states last year. That’s big,” Huntingdon coach Melanie Varner said when asked about the experience factor. “It’s a little less nerve-racking. Their pool (at Bucknell) has a bulkhead for its turns instead of a wal. Having that experience helps.”

Nick Buckley is seeded first in the 50 free and sixth in the 100 free. The top eight in each event medal.

“Nick is seeded really well in his events,” Varner said. “Both relays are seeded 19th and it takes 16 to make it to the finals, so it would be nice if they could jump up a few places.”