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Beard, Mitchell advance to States
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
As Warwick swimming coach Mark Daum described it, Nick Beard could have gone one of two ways on Saturday night.
Angry from a disappointing finish in the 200 I.M. on Friday, he could have self-destructed from those emotions in the 100 breaststroke.
Or, Beard could have channeled his feelings into a brilliant performance.
The Warwick junior did the latter.
Seeded seventh in 1:02.21, Beard trimmed nearly three seconds from his time while claiming a fourth-place medal in 59.68 seconds at the District Three Triple-A Swimming Championships at Cumberland Valley. He also dropped two seconds off of his own school record time (1:01.7) in the 100 breaststroke.
"That’s just incredible," Daum remarked. "Mentally he got himself back together and was just phenomenal."
"There was some definite anger there after (the 200 I.M.)," Beard said. "It gave me a lot more motivation. I was shooting to go under a minute and I did it."
Although Beard fell just one spot away from an automatic berth at States, he learned on Sunday night that his time, in fact, was good enough to clinch his first-ever trip to the PIAA State Championships, slated for next Wednesday through Saturday, March 13-16 at Bucknell University.
"That’s been my whole high school goals, just to make States," said Beard, who took seventh in the 100 breaststroke at Districts last year.
He won’t be alone when he walks into Bucknell’s Kinney Natatorium next week. Warwick junior Justin Mitchell punched his ticket to States for the second year in a row by finishing fourth in the 200 freestyle in 1:43.05 and fifth in the 500 freestyle in 4:41.06.
Although the Warriors’ 200 free relay team of Ryan Mitchell, Chris Cicala, Jon Zartman and Justin Mitchell wasn’t quite able to qualify for States, they still left Cumberland Valley on Friday night with a feather in their cap. Besides winning an eighth-place medal in 1:29.88, they also shattered the school record previously held by Dain and Drew Bomberger, David Thompson and Colin Schouten.
"It feels good to break a State champion’s (Dain Bomberger) record," Justin Mitchell said. "It’s pretty exciting."
The Warriors’ 400 free relay of Ryan Mitchell, Tim Griest, Zartman and Justin Mitchell added an eighth-place medal in 3:15.88, Ryan Mitchell placed 14th in the 100 freestyle in 49.41 seconds and 14th in the 50 free (22.57), Zartman took 13th in both the 500 free in 4:48.55 and 200 free (1:46.24), the 200 medley relay (Jack Lance, Beard, Tyler Steudel, Cicala) was 13th in 1:43.59, and Lance finished 16th in the 200 I.M., as the Warwick boys ended up eighth in the final team standings with 113 points.
Although Beard got two team points for his team with his 15th-place finish in the 200 I.M. on Friday night, he was hoping for much better. Seeded 12th in 2:03.56, he was probably on his way to doing that, but he whiffed on one of his turns and it proved costly. Beard finished in a time of 2:02.69 in the third of four heats.
"When I went to do my turn, I just barely touched the wall, the top of my big toe just nicked the wall, so I didn’t get a good push off and I lost a good second on that time," Beard said.
On Saturday, the starting time for the boys Triple-A 100 breaststroke couldn’t arrive soon enough for the Warwick junior. When it did, Beard capitalized. Hershey’s Shota Nakano took command to win the gold medal in 57.61, but Beard challenged Trojans’ senior Steven Ceneviva for the bronze, finishing just 33-hundreds of a second behind in fourth place.
"I had a lot of anger to fuel my breaststroke," he said. "I just told myself, ‘I know I can do this.’ I just knew I could do it."
Justin Mitchell had his own motivation in the 200 free and 500 free — earn a return trip to the PIAA State Championships. To do so, he would have to come out of the third of four heats in the 200 free, seeded ninth in 1:46.87.
"I was a little disappointed that I was ninth because then I wasn’t going to be in the fast heat," Mitchell said. "But it really turned out to play well for me because the guy I was swimming next to (Daniel Boone’s Ryan Owens) ended up winning it, so being next to him really helped push me. I always like to be able to swim next to someone and pace off of him and I could do that with him. And going into my last 50, I just felt really good."
Owens’ gold medal time of 1:42.07 was just a second ahead of Mitchell (1:43.05), whose effort stood up for fourth place. He missed the automatic State berth by one spot, but his time was still good enough to get to Bucknell.
"I was in the warm down pool when the last heat went," Mitchell said, "and I stopped and looked up at the (score)board and I was like, ‘Fourth place? Wow.’ I was definitely surprised and happy with it."
Mitchell’s time ended up being two and a half seconds faster than his finish last year, when he took fifth at Districts in the 200 freestyle in 1:45.58.
"I definitely knew that I had to drop time if I wanted to make it (to States)," Mitchell said, "and I was looking at District One results before I came to the meet and they were a pretty fast District. So I knew I was going to have to put up a good time if I wanted to make it back to States."
Seeded seventh in 500 freestyle in 4:48.76, he came through with another good time in that event on Saturday. dropping nearly eight seconds while placing fifth in a lifetime best finish of 4:41.06. Hershey junior Zach Luttrell won the gold in 4:34.84.
Mitchell also was a member of the 200 free and 400 free relay teams which both won eighth-place medals. The 200 free relay swam in the first of two heats at the end of Friday’s session, and with the foursome of Ryan and Justin Mitchell, Cicala and Zartman focused on shattering the school record, they took first place (1:29.88) by two seconds ahead of runner-up Northern (1:31.89).
"We really didn’t know that the record was makeable for us, and then right before our race, (coach Daum) told us if we all split 22.5, we could get the record, so I think that really fired us up," Justin Mitchell said.
"Chris Cicala anchored the medley in a good time and the performance that Ryan Mitchell had in that 50 free, that was half of it right there," Daum said. "And Justin had a great 200, so that was three-quarters and Jon had a great 200, so they were all swimming really well. I told them before they went up, ‘You’ve got a shot.’ Everybody’s got to hit it and they all hit it."
With the school record safely tucked away, they crossed their fingers that they would finish in a medal position, and their prayers were answered.
"We were glued to the scoreboard, checking that out," Zartman said.
For Justin Mitchell and Beard, they will have more scoreboard watching to do at States.
"I had a great time at States last year, so I definitely wanted to make it again," Mitchell said. More STATES, page B-3