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Daniel earns two District silvers
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
On Friday, Paige Daniel seemed tired.
Twenty-four hours later, the Manheim Central junior seemed more like her old self.
The result was a near four second drop in the 500 free and a silver medal in 5:07.88 at the District Three Double-A Swimming Championships at Cumberland Valley High School last Saturday in Mechanicsburg.
Daniel also took home a silver in the 200 I.M. in 2:10.52 from Friday’s competition, in addition to helping the 200 medley and 200 free relay teams to top-10 finishes.
"I think (Paige) seemed pleased with her swims," Manheim Central coach Heather Fittery said. "She did say she felt better on Saturday than what she had on Friday."
By placing in the top two in both the 200 I.M. and 500 free, Daniel punched a return trip to the PIAA State Double-A Championships, which are set for next Friday and Saturday, March 16-17 at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium. A three-time State qualifier, Daniel won PIAA bronze in both the 200 I.M. and 500 free last year.
The Manheim Central star was in danger, however, of not earning an automatic bid after the backstroke leg in Friday’s 200 I.M. Following a 33.11 second split in the back, Daniel’s time of 1:02.02 was fourth behind Palmyra’s Peyten Lyons (1:00.42), Boiling Springs’ Jessica Burkett (1:01.44) and Oley Valley’s Lauren Doerrman (1:01.73).
"(Paige) was in the middle of the pack, and we’re thinking, ‘Oh no, what’s going on?,’" Fittery said. "But she pulled it off to get second place."
Indeed, Daniel used a 39.08 split in the breaststroke to overtake Doerrman, and then she finished with a strong 29.42 split in the free to place second in 2:10.52, behind only Burkett, who won the gold in 2:08.79.
"(Paige) did do a decent time, but we thought she looked kinda tired," Fittery said. "She had swam in the medley relay backstroke first, and it wasn’t a bad time for her split, but it wasn’t her best either."
With Daniel teaming up alongside freshman Brigette Fittery, and juniors Rachel Lapp and Rachel Clippinger, the Lady Barons 200 medley relay took 10th place in a time of 2:02.97 in the opening event.
Later, the foursome of Lapp, Jeannie Wagner, Fittery and Daniel stepped up with a personal-best time of 1:46.90, finishing just out of the medals in ninth place. It marked a three-second drop from their 12th-place seed time of 1:49.84.
"We were very surprised and excited with the ninth-place finish in the 200 free," Fittery said. "The girls looked great in the water, so we were very pleased with that … That was the last event of the day, so (Paige) finished on a good note."
Perhaps Daniel also used that 200 free relay as momentum going into the 500 freestyle in Saturday’s action. There, she got out of the gates in 58.92 seconds after the first 100, just behind Trinity’s Caroline Finkbeiner (57.80).
"She hung in there pretty well," Fittery said. "I know once we get to States, she’s going to end up going out faster and probably trying to set the pace."
In the end, Finkbeiner touched the wall in a winning time of 5:03.58, just over four seconds ahead of Daniel, who took the silver in 5:07.88.
"(Finkbeiner) was a very strong swimmer and Paige knew she’d have a challenge going into it," Fittery said. "We more or less said, ‘Just hang with her,’ and she did. I think she was pleased with just improving her time and advancing on to States."
The fact that she was able to improve her time by almost four seconds without starting to taper could be a good sign for Daniel, who swam a school record 4:55.45 in the 500 free at States last year.
"I think she more or less waits for States to get that done," Fittery said. "She’s still been working herself pretty strong practice-wise. And I think that’s just typical of her. She just kinda comes and does what she can at Districts and saves it for States and really does a good job."
Looking toward States, Fittery believes Daniel has the ability to return from Bucknell University as a State champion.
"Looking at the seeds right now for both events (200 I.M. and 500 free), if she swims her race and comes out with a good time, she has a chance of being a champion in the 500 free," Fittery said. "The girl that has the top seed right now has a 5:00, so (Paige) has gone under that already. I’m hoping she improves her times and hopefully comes out a champion in one of her events, if not both. She has the potential to do it." More DANIEL, page B-6