Mitchell claims first L-L gold

By on February 20, 2014

Warwick senior Justin Mitchell won gold in the 200 free, along with three silver medals, in final L-L League Boys Championship Meet last Saturday. Photo by Mike Shull

Warwick senior Justin Mitchell won gold in the 200 free, along with three silver medals, in final L-L League Boys Championship Meet last Saturday. Photo by Mike Shull

Before Warwick’s Justin Mitchell headed to the starting blocks for the 500 freestyle at the L-L League Boys Swimming Championships last Saturday, he got a few words of encouragement from coach Mark Daum.

The motivation might have come from the fact that Mitchell, a senior, was seeded fourth in the race behind two freshmen and a sophomore.

“(Coach Daum) was like, ‘Justin, don’t let those younger guys psyche you out. You’ve been here many times before and you know what to do. Just swim your own race,’” Mitchell recalled.

That’s exactly what he did.

It paid off with a silver medal in 4:42.21, which was nearly nine seconds better than his seed time (4:51.05). That was also one of the highlights from a meet in which Mitchell captured the 200 free (1:45.20) for his first-ever L-L individual gold medal, along with silvers in the 200 free relay (1:32.84) and 400 free relay (3:19.27).

“I think he was pleased with his performance, I was pleased how well he did,” Daum remarked, “and hopefully he stays healthy and everything stays in shape for Districts.”

Keir Uhlin, Chris Cicala and Tim Griest also placed in two individual events, as the Warriors took second in the team standings with 87!-W points behind only Hempfield (139!-W) and nearly 20 points ahead of Manheim Township (70). That was an improvement on last year’s third-place finish and it’s believed to be equal to, if not their best-ever placing at Leagues in program history.

“All the credit goes to the kids,” Daum said. “I just manage to get out of the way and not screw them up.”

Added Mitchell: “I think the swimmers and Mark alike were just really impressed that we were able to hang with Hempfield and Township because they’ve been the powerhouses for however many years. This year, we have a lot of graduating seniors who helped to keep that score close, but also in the years coming, Township and Hempfield are not going to be able to just put it on cruise control.”

Mitchell certainly didn’t have it on cruise control in the 200 free, touching the wall in 1:45.20 to finish more than three seconds ahead of runner-up Casey Lear of Hempfield (1:48.79).

“The League Meet for me has always kinda been the halfway point,” Mitchell said. “We haven’t tapered or rested or shaved for that meet. So it’s not a goal that I had, but winning that was something nice to do, especially my senior year.”

Five events later, winning silver in the 500 free was a nice bonus on top of another solid time that he swam, finishing in 4:42.21. McCaskey freshman Arthur Markley won the gold in 4:41.21.

“At the end, I got pushed by Arthur,” Mitchell said. “It’s always nice to have someone pushing you in your race. I was more happy with my time in that. Second place is second place – I’ll take a silver medal when I can get it, but the time right now is really the important thing. A 4:42 will have me seeded well at Districts.”

Mitchell was also a part of two silver-medal winning relays. The 200 free relay (Griest, Seth Cagno, Mitchell, Uhlin) finished in 1:32.94, while the 400 free relay (Griest, Mitchell, Cicala, Uhlin) touched the wall in 3:19.27.

Uhlin added depth for Warwick in the freestyle events with a fourth in the 200 free (1:49.27) and a fifth in the 500 free (5:01.50). Jonathan Zartman chipped in with an eighth-place finish in the 200 free (1:53.09) and Griest won a fourth-place medal in the 100 free (49.90) and took eighth in the 50 free (23.02).

Cicala was sixth in the 100 back (58.17) and seventh in the 200 I.M. (2:06.01), David Heckel took fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.36) and Jack Lance added an eighth-place finish in the 200 I.M. (2:06.55).

“We had not only a lot of season-best times, but lifetime best times,” Daum said. “David Heckel did two lifetime best times and qualified for Districts in his 100 breaststroke. It’s very satisfying to see the kids pull together and perform like that. But again, it’s to their credit.”

To Nick Beard’s credit, the two-time defending L-L 100 breaststroke champ fought off sickness in the week before Leagues for the second straight year, in addition to dealing with a loss in his personal life. Although his time in the 200 I.M. wasn’t where he wanted it to be, the Warwick senior bounced back in the 100 breaststroke. Seeded second in that event to Hempfield’s Tre Fissella, he went on to win the silver in 1:01.81. Fissella won gold in 1:00.02.

“It was a rough week and a half for him,” Daum said. “But the 100 breaststroke was within four-tenths of his season-best. That was a pretty gutty performance and he’s faster right now than he was last year at this time. So that’s a plus and a positive for him.”

Bruce Morgan is the sports editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at bmorgan.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4451.

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