Daniel captures two State medals Shatters school mark in 500 free

By on March 21, 2012

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor bmorgan.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

Paige Daniel

Former Manheim Central field hockey coach Katie Gerfen had no idea that Paige Daniel was competing at the PIAA State Double-A Swimming Meet last Friday and Saturday.

Daniel, a Manheim Central junior, had no idea that Gerfen would be calling.

Not only did Gerfen call, though, she did so at the perfect time for her former player on Friday night.

Although having won a fourth-place PIAA State medal in the girls 200 Individual Medley, Daniel wasn’t exactly thrilled with her time of 2:07.62.

But once arriving back at her Lewisburg hotel on Friday night, her spirits were lifted.

"(Coach Gerfen) just randomly called just to see how I was," Daniel said. "She didn’t know I was at States or anything. She was just like, ‘I haven’t talked to you for a long time and how are you?’ And I was pretty upset because of my 200 I.M. And she talked me through it and told me to just go into the next day feeling confident and only see positive results."

With new-found confidence, she headed back to Kinney Natatorium and did earn positive results, capturing the silver medal while breaking her own school record with a time of 4:54.76. That shattered the mark of 4:55.45 which she swam while winning the PIAA State bronze last year.

"I’m very proud of her," Manheim Central coach Heather Fittery said. "Just even to place up there at States, that is an awesome opportunity, and for her to be able to do it again this year … she gave it all that she had and that’s really all that you can ask for."

A three-time PIAA State qualifier, Daniel won bronze medals in the 200 I.M. (2:06.38) and 500 freestyle (4:55.45) in 2011.

She was hoping to improve her school record time in the 200 I.M. on Friday, and she took a positive step by finishing third in the prelims in 2:06.66. That was nearly a four-second drop from her seed time of 2:10.52, and only 28-hundredths of a second off of her school-record mark of 2:06.38.

But the championship finals didn’t unfold as she had hoped. She ended up placing fourth in 2:07.62, six seconds behind champ Marie Georger (2:01.30), a Mercyhurst Prep senior.

"I don’t even know (what happened)," Daniel said. "It just felt bad."

After swimming a 59.39 in her first two strokes, she struggled in the breaststroke, touching the wall in 39.07 seconds on that leg.

"(Paige) was happy that she was close to getting her best time," Fittery said, "and she seemed like she was ready in that. Her breastroke split was the one that was kinda up compared to the other ones … She was disappointed more or less with her time that she swam (more than the medal place)."

"Breastroke is probably my worst stroke," Daniel said. "It wasn’t the only bad one though. None of my splits were good in any of the other strokes."

But thanks to Gerfen’s phone call, Daniel came back with a positive mindset on Saturday and posted a solid prelim time of 4:59.20 in the 500 free, behind only Trinity’s Caroline Finkbeiner (4:56.67).

"I think she still feels the pressure of going up there, but I think she seems more relaxed (as a three-time State qualifier)," Fittery said. "She knows how it is and just kinda goes and does her thing. She knows what to expect."

In the finals, she touched the wall in 4:54.76 for the silver, just over a second behind Finkbeiner, who won the gold in 4:53.68.

"She just more or less went out and swam her race and wanted to really stick with Caroline Finkbeiner," Fittery said, "and she did a good job sticking with her."

"I didn’t really go all out for the whole thing (in the 500 free prelims) because I knew that since I was winning my heat that I would make it back," Daniel said. "And because I went a 4:55, I figured I could go at least that."

After the first 200 in the finals, Daniel had a split of 1:55.17 and was easily within striking distance of Finkbeiner, who had a 1:54.60.

"I just wanted to stay with Caroline for the first 200 and then just try to not die too much on the last 300," Daniel said. "I just have trouble going out fast. I can usually bring it home. It’s just that the first 200 is difficult. I was happy (with the first 200) because it was a 1:55 and that’s pretty good."

It also is a number that Daniel can build off of for next year when Manheim Central moves up to Triple-A. A three-time State qualifier in the 500 free and 200 I.M., she anticipates probably staying in those two events in 2013.

"I’m going to be in Triple-A and I just want to go faster than I did this year," Daniel remarked. "I just try to swim my best time and I also try not to think about placing and stuff like that because that puts too much pressure on myself. And when I put too much pressure on myself, it goes bad." More DANIEL, page B-6

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