Buckley captures state title

LEWISBURG — Huntingdon Area High School junior Nick Buckley can call himself a state champ.

Buckley won the PIAA Class 2A 50-yard freestyle event on the first day of the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships at Bucknell University on Wednesday.

“It was a crazy feeling,” Buckley said. “It didn’t sink in all right away, but once I realized I won, it was amazing. There was a lot of great competition around me, and with the help of great coaching and great support, I just swam my race and came out on top.”

Buckley swam a blazing time of 21.22 seconds in the finals to edge out Neshannock’s Conner McBeth, who swam a 21.26.

“When he did it, I jumped about 2 feet off the deck and screamed,” Huntingdon coach Melanie Varner said. “I was totally thrilled for him. He works really hard — I can’t take any of the credit.”

Buckley, the top seed, had finished second to McBeth in the prelims by swimming a 21.45 to McBeth’s 21.36.

Buckley said his parents (Jeff and Mary Ann), girlfriend (Jaelyn Mitchell) and grandparents (Sam and Joy Buckley) were there to cheer him on, and his sister, Madison, was at Penn State Behrend watching a live stream of the race.

Buckley has only been swimming since his freshman season and didn’t make the finals in the 50 free last year.

“It’s mainly just more experience,” Buckley said about the improvement from last season. “I haven’t had a whole lot of experience swimming, but I worked hard, and I have some great teammates and a great support system of coaches and family.”

Buckley also helped the Huntingdon boys 200 free relay team earn a 10th-place finish. He was joined by Andrew Edwards, Ben Atherton and Colby Grubb, and they swam a 1:30.67, a school record, in the finals to place 10th.

Earlier, the relay team was 14th in the prelims with a 1:31.90. Buckley will also swim in the 100 freestyle, where he is seeded sixth, today.

Huntingdon senior Haley Goldstone just missed out on advancing to the finals in the girls 50 free. She swam a time of 24.76 and finished 17th with the top 16 moving to the finals.

Central’s Jackson Jeffries was 30th in the 50 free, the same event as Buckley, by swimming a 23.12.

Jeffries’ teammate, Christopher Bush, was 31st in the boys 200 individual medley with a 2:06.46.

The Tyrone boys 200 medley relay team of Jacob Decker, Matt Lenze, Songmian Wang and Parker Bayard finished 32nd with a time of 1:49.55.­