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High water mark: Solomon savors 500-win milestone

Photo for the Mirror by Tim O’Brien Hollidaysburg swimmers celebrate with coach Deb Solomon on Wednesday after she earned the 500th win of her career.

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Early Friday evening at the swimming pool at Hollidaysburg Area High School, someone wisely pointed out that the Roman numeral for 500 was the letter D. And it ended up making a lot of sense, too.

It was so appropriate because a very large gathering was there to honor the longtime high school swim coach Deb Solomon for making history. She eclipsed the 500-win mark earlier this week as coach of the Tigers program in wins over Central Cambria.

“I had no idea. I really didn’t know it was going on,” Solomon said of the celebration following her team’s sweep of Central Mountain on the girls and boys sides Friday, moving her win mark to 502 and 503.

“One of the refs said to me during the meet that they wanted to know when the soiree was happening. I did see the (No.) 500 (balloon) and thought something was up, but not this.”

What “this” meant was a celebration involving her entire swim team — more than 50 high schoolers in grades 9-12 — along with parents and former swimmers from Solomon’s past, and even parents of former swimmers whose kids weren’t there anymore, but who wanted to be on hand.

“I think Deb made it special and fun,” said Sarah Robbins, a 2011 graduate of Hollidaysburg who went on to swim collegiately and now lives and works in West Virginia. “I loved that she made it both competitive and fun. She made everyone feel included, too. She was hands on. Not a lot of swim coaches do that.”

Solomon, a 1987 graduate of the University of Iowa, came to Hollidaysburg after teaching and coaching in Virginia. She was an assistant under Greg Scallen for three years, taking over in the late 1990s, and has been in charge of the team for 21 years going into this season.

“(Former athletic director) Dean Rossi kept threatening to fill in the pool with concrete because we were so bad,” laughed Solomon, who teaches social studies, world cultures and Russian at the senior high. “When I started, we were maybe a .500 team, going like 7-7. When Greg stepped down, he said to Dean, ‘She is ready.’ He offered me the job, and he was so supportive. He had my back all the time.”

Now, Solomon has a program that showcases 31 banners enveloping the swimming pool, listing past conference titles won by her teams.

“I said (to Dean) to give me a couple of years, and by about 2005, we were winning banners and taking kids to states and we’ve been taking kids to states ever since,” said Solomon, who is assisted by Tracy Flynn and Stuart Roberts this season.

Seniors Allison Black and Nick Helsel took the microphone after their meet to share some memories with the crowd of their longtime coach, who didn’t swim in high school but did compete for the YMCA in her hometown of Maquoketa, Iowa, during the summers.

“I think that she has touched everyone’s life in this sport, and she has put so much dedication and work into helping everyone become better swimmers and athletes,” Black said.

“Deb, the great coach that she is, wants to motivate her kids. She pushes them to want to be their best, not just as swimmers but in life as well,” Helsel said.

Current Hollidaysburg athletic director Homer DeLattre believes there are two main things that have made Solomon a success.

“Consistency is No. 1, and longevity is key, too,” he said of the woman who also is a track official in the spring and at one time helped out with the cross country program in the fall. “Those are two factors in any successful coach, and she has them. She has the respect of the coaches in the area and across the state.”

Helping Solomon get Friday’s wins — 114-44 for the boys and 98-68 for the girls — was Helsel, who took first in the 100 freestyle (53.44) and 50 freestyle (25.81), as well as Tyler Gnegy (200 freestyle) and Parker Bayard (1:01.99). For the girls, it was Black taking the 100 butterfly (1:08.63) and 200 IM (2:27.88) and Megan Dinges (100 freestyle (59.22) and 50 freestyle (26.63) along with Kathleen Tinker in the 500 freestyle (5:58.26).

The Hollidaysburg boys are 10-0 this year while the girls are 9-1.

BOYS

HOLLIDAYSBURG 144, CENTRAL MOUNTAIN 44

MENS OPEN 200Y MED.REL.:1. HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA H A, (Joey Grabill, Bryce Helmer, James Roberts, BradenO’Connor), 1:57.36; 2. Central Mountain, (Derek Hughes, Parker Orndorf, Leisher Gugino, Damon Germello), 2:00.96; 3. HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA H B, (Brady Flynn, Jerry Villalobos, Nolen Tyndall, Matt Nagle), 2:10.80; MENS OPEN 200Y FREE: 1. Tyler Gnegy, H 2:04.15; 2. Daniel Evans, H 2:29.59; 3. Mitchell Hemminger, H 2:48.14; MENS OPEN 200Y I.M.:1. Leisher Gugino, CM 2:12.68; 2. Parker Bayard, H 2:16.98; 3. James Roberts, H 2:30.83; MENS OPEN 50Y FREE: 1. Nick Helsel, H 23.96; 2. Braden O’Connor, H 25.81; 3. Brady Flynn, H 28.59; MENS OPEN 100Y FLY: 1. Derek Hughes, CM 1:00.51; 2. Nolen Tyndall, H 1:10.44; 3. Bryce Helmer, H 1:20.24; MENS OPEN 100Y FREE:1. Nick Helsel, H 53.44; 2. Joey Grabill, H 57.96; 3. Mason Lowey, H 1:06.53; MENS OPEN 500Y FREE:1. Parker Orndorf, CM 5:33.41; 2. Tyler Gnegy, H 5:45.31; 3. James Roberts, H 6:11.97;MENS OPEN 200Y FREE REL:1. HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA H A, (Nick Helsel, Bryce Helmer, Joey Grabill, BradenO’Connor), 1:43.59; 2. CM, (Parker Orndorf, Damon Germello, DerekHughes, Leisher Gugino), 1:47.69; 3. HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA H B, (Parker Bayard, Mason Lowey, Matt Nagle, Tyler Gnegy), 1:47.94; MENS OPEN 100Y BACK:1. Parker Bayard, H 1:01.99; 2. Derek Hughes, CM 1:02.62; 3. Parker Orndorf, CM 1:05.34; MENS OPEN 100Y BREAST:1. Leisher Gugino, CM 1:09.23; 2. Bryce Helmer, H 1:16.07; 3. Braden O’Connor, H 1:16.17; MENS OPEN 400Y FREE REL:1. HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA H A, (Parker Bayard, James Roberts, Tyler Gnegy, Nick Helsel), 3:57.03; 2. HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA H B, (Nolen Tyndall, Matt Nagle, Daniel Evans, Mason Lowey), 4:36.24;

GIRLS

HOLLIDAYSBURG 98, CENTRAL MOUNTAIN 68

WOMENS OPEN 200Y MED.REL.: 1. Central Mountain, (Kylie Garman, McKenna Fox, Evie Rembold, Olivia Rockey), 2:05.00; 2. HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA H A, (Emma McCall, Megan Dinges, Allison Black, Taylor Hileman), 2:06.38; 3. HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA H B, (Emmalee Claar, Lily Evans, Elaina Fisher, Cali Bainey), 2:13.96; WOMENS OPEN 200Y FREE: 1. Mikayla Rich, CMHS 2:10.93; 2. Kathleen Tinker, HLBG 2:15.75; 3. Mia Lecrone, HLBG 2:25.11; WOMENS OPEN 200Y I.M.: 1. Allison Black, HLBG 2:27.88; 2. Madison Bair, CMHS 2:35.95; 3. Agnes Hoover, HLBG 2:44.23; WOMENS OPEN 50Y FREE: 1. Megan Dinges, HLBG 26.63; 2. Evie Rembold, CMHS 27.14; 3. Hannah Brian, CMHS 28.71; WOMENS OPEN 100Y FLY: 1. Allison Black, HLBG 1:08.63; 2. Mia Lecrone, HLBG 1:13.48; 3. Kylie Garman, CMHS 1:15.29; WOMENS OPEN 100Y FREE: 1. Megan Dinges, HLBG 59.22; 2. Evie Rembold, CMHS 1:00.97; 3. Olivia Rockey, CMHS 1:04.92; WOMENS OPEN 500Y FREE: 1. Kathleen Tinker, HLBG 5:58.26; 2. Mikayla Rich, CMHS 6:00.82; 3. Agnes Hoover, HLBG 6:22.78; WOMENS OPEN 200Y FREE REL: 1. Central Mountain, (Madison Bair, Hannah Brian, Olivia Rockey, Mikayla Rich), 1:51.35; 2. HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA H A, (Cali Bainey, Kelsey Lenhart, Kara Vyborny, Kathleen Tinker), 1:56.31; 3. HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA H B, (Mia Lecrone, Averie Holtz, Jerica Walters, Sydney Imler), 2:00.92; WOMENS OPEN 100Y BACK: 1. Madison Bair, CMHS 1:10.37; 2. Emma McCall, HLBG 1:11.86; 3. Emmalee Claar, HLBG 1:15.82; WOMENS OPEN 100Y BREAST: 1. McKenna Fox, CMHS 1:17.10; 2. Lauren Imler, HLBG 1:17.12; 3. Lily Evans, HLBG 1:23.00; WOMENS OPEN 400Y FREE REL: 1. HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA H A, (Megan Dinges, Mia Lecrone, Allison Black, Kathleen Tinker), 4:09.99; 2. Central Mountain, (Madison Bair, Morgan Brian, Evie Rembold, Mikayla Rich), 4:16.66; 3. HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA H B, (Kara Vyborny, Averie Holtz, Agnes Hoover, Kelsey Lenhart), 4:29.78;

Records Hollidaysburg boys 10-0; Hollidaysburg girls 9-1

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