Williamsport swimmers gain experience at state meet

LEWISBURG – The dream of reaching the podium might have been dashed in the warmups as Williamsport’s group of young swimmers realized what type of competition they faced.

The PIAA Class AAA swimming and diving championships began Friday after the Class AA meet ran Wednesday and Thursday. Williamsport had qualifiers on both the girls and boys sides of the meet as Lydia Smith, Mallory Pardoe, Amy Jarvis, Isabelle Griswold and Matt Beard all competed on the first day.

“It was a great season and we had a great swim,” Jarvis said. “The team is super close. We’re like a little family. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Unfortunately, no swimmer qualified for the championship swims during the night sessions, but with Smith being the eldest as a junior there was plenty to gain from the experience.

“The competitors here at the state meet are very competitive,” Griswold said. “Going into the meet we wanted to have fun and drop time. We weren’t disappointed. When I came here, I wasn’t nervous I just wanted to have fun.”

The team certainly looked like a close group as they sat on the floor of Bucknell’s basketball court perfecting their English accents.

“Our bond as a team grew more as we went into this meet,” Smith said. “It’s awesome, because being with these girls has been such a great experience. This was just a lot more fun than any other meet.”

Smith helped on the 200 free relay team, but before that she was in the opening heat of the 50 free. Smith came in with the seventh fastest time out of the group and maintained that with a 25.85 finish.

“The way our coaches have turned this program around and the upswing we are on is just so exciting,” Smith said. “When people love this sport it’s such a fun thing to watch and be a part of. I’m just blessed to be a part of it.”

Smith was supported by her teammates throughout her 50 free prelim race. When it was Pardoe’s turn to swim, Smith was right there alongside her teammates as they cheered for Pardoe.

“I was very nervous going into it, because I was going against really fast girls,” Pardoe said. “In the morning during warmups, I just didn’t feel as ready as I was for districts. I was nervous, but when I got into the pool everything just fell out and I just swam.”

The Millionaire freshman, who owns the District 2 record in the 100 fly, looked good in the water as she posted a 59.06.

The group then quickly transitioned to the 200 free, which they finished in 1:41.97.

“I have three more years to compete,” Pardoe said. “This summer I’m looking to do a better program and train extra hard during the season.”

With the help of Williamsport’s coaching staff all of its swimmers will be back. Nate Witmer coached the girls out to an 11-0 record before falling to State College. Besides the records, he’s also helped restore passion into the program.

“I’ve only swam for a couple coaches,” Pardoe said. “I’m very happy with the coaching staff. I’m happy I started with them, because they give me the motivation to do well. I hope they stay with me for my high school career.”

Every swimmer echoed those thoughts as the entire group looked ready to jump back into the pool and compete.

“The team has grown, especially with a lot freshman this year,” Griswold said. “They are going to be a big part of our team. It just helps a lot, because we’re losing some, but were gaining more competitive swimmers.”

Matthew Beard hit the water for the 50 free with the hopes of breaking the school record. He finished in 21.70 and missed the school record by .08 seconds.

“It was a thrill being here,” Beard said. “I thought it went well. I didn’t get what I was expecting to get, but I still managed to get a really good time.”

Much like each one of his female teammates at the event, Beard looked ready to work through the offseason in the hopes of performing even better at next year’s meet.

“Seeing everybody go out faster makes you want to get that much faster,” Beard said. “It makes you want to work harder.”