Daniel takes home two PIAA medals
And beat Fleetwood’s Matt Leenhouts to the wall.
The Barons’ sophomore did both.
As a result, Daniel picked up his second PIAA medal in as many days, taking fourth place in a time of 4:35.98. On Friday, he earned a sixth-place finish in 1:57.67 in the 200 Individual Medley.
Those times shattered his own school records in both events. Both marks previously belonged to Adam Engle, but Daniel broke the 200 I.M. standard in the Barons’ meet against ManheimTownship in the regular season and then the 500 free record at the District Championships.
“(Matt) seemed very relaxed all weekend up there,” Manheim Central coach Heather Fittery said. “He did very well.”
The two State medals were the first of his career after placing 12th in the 500 free (4:46.56) and 16th in the 200 I.M. (2:04.03) last year.
Although Daniel didn’t return to Manheim with any hardware in 2013, he gained valuable experience.
“That helped knowing what it’s all about,” Fittery remarked. “I think he felt confident enough and knew what he could do with his swims that he should be able to make it back.”
That confidence showed in the 200 free prelims on Friday morning. Seeded 6th in the event in 1:58.15, Daniel shaved 25 one-hundredths of a second off his time while earning the fourth seed for the finals in a time of 1:57.90.
Part of his success was due to swimming a strong split of 29.36 seconds in the backstroke.
“His backstroke actually looked very strong,” Fittery remarked, “and looking at his splits, his backstroke was actually a whole second faster than it was at Districts.”
Even as fast as his time was in the prelims, he managed to go slightly faster in the A-finals, outreaching Mars’ senior Thomas Pierre (1:57.84) to the wall in 1:57.67 for sixth place. Danville sophomore Joe Malafronte (1:57.65) edged Daniel by a fingernail for fifth place.
“Of course, he knew he was in the medal round and (his goal was) just to get a good time,” Fittery said. “He wasn’t sure how much more he could drop in the I.M. because he was going pretty much as fast as what he could. But I think he was happy with his swim and his time.”
That set the stage for the 500 free on Friday.
Capitalizing on a strong work ethic, Daniel earned the No. 3 seed in the A-finals after touching the wall first in his heat in 4:38.57.
“It was a very good swim,” Fittery said. “I knew it was close to his District time (4:38.14). He went out pretty fast and he knew he just kinda wanted to stick with the kid that was seeded first, just to make sure he’d get a good time to get into the A-finals for the medal round.”
After watching Daniel get the strong start, Fittery acknowledged that she became a little worried with his splits in the middle of the race. But Daniel had a strong kick over the final 150 yards.
“His last 150 yards were very strong,” Fittery said, “and he ended up going a little bit faster than his District time which was fine to get him to the finals.”
There, Daniel got another shot at Leenhouts, who edged him in the District Championships
This time, though, would be a different story.
Daniel got a solid start, recording a split of 52.58 for the first 100 yards.
“He went out well,” Fittery said. “I think he was usually averaging a low 54.”
Throughout most of the race, Daniel was swimming in the fifth position, but with a split of 27.17 seconds over the final 50 yards, to Leenhouts’ 28.00, he edged him for fourth place in a time of 4:35.98. Leenhouts took fifth in 4:36.08.
“(Matt) swam great splits throughout,” Fittery said. “He had good turns. I’d say probably the last 100, he was creeping up on Leenhouts. Matt said (later), ‘I didn’t really see him until the last 25.’ At that point, it was neck-and-neck with them going into the last turn, and Matt said, ‘I pushed off and my legs were hurting but I just gave it my all.”
West Allegheny junior Jarod Kehl took the gold in 4:28.80, easily ahead of runner-up Drew Damich, a ChartiersValley junior, who finished in 4:33.20.
“Matt wanted to do a 4:35 in the 500 and he wanted to be able to beat Leenhouts, so he accomplished both of those,” Fittery said. “I think he knew the competition that was out there (for the gold), looking at the other kids and stuff. But he had two goals and he did them and ended up fourth. So I think he did well.”
Bruce Morgan is the sports editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 721-4451.