Jersey Shore qualifies several swimmers for PIAA State Meet

(PHOTO PROVIDED) Jersey Shore’s 200-free relay (left to right) of Taylor Fleming, Veronica Sander, Meaghan Keegan and Jordon O’Connor are all smiles after winning and punching a ticket to the PIAA State Meet.

FROM STAFF REPORTS

No Jersey Shore swimmer went into the District IV PIAA Swim Meet as a top seed. It was no big deal, as several swimmers shrugged of their pre-meet placings and jumped to the top of the podium.

And maybe the tone was set even before Shore’s first win of the 2-day meet. Veronica Sander was the team’s first crack at chasing down some titles, but she was down the seeding chart for the 200-freestyle. While finishing just a few seconds short of a win, she was able to drop almost five seconds and secure a third-place finish. Her time-drop, and placing, ignited excitement on Shore’s corner of the pool deck. Not only for her effort, but the knowledge that their taper was going to work, and times were going to drop.

The girls’ next event was the 50-freestyle where Selinsgrove’s Sarah Fravel has dominated the event by claiming the District title the past three years. Seeded right behind her was Jordon O’Connor.

“My teammates in the earlier events had incredible races and time drops,” said O’Connor. “And it was an encouraging feeling to have. I was nervous well before that as this race is very unforgiving. It is a quick event where anything can happen, and it really comes down to your technique.”

The nerve issue was addressed by Shore’s head coach, Jenna Brooks, before O’Connor headed to the starting block.

“I told her to give it all she had and don’t settle for second place,” said Brooks. “Mentally, it’s tough to go up against the reigning champ.”

And knowing that the race is unforgiving and often comes down to the last yard or two, Jenna spoke to the technique concerns. “I told her to concentrate on a strong, quick finish.”

Premonition? It wasn’t yards but inches as O’Connor was able to out-touch Fravel by 7/100s of a second for the win.

The next event, the 100-fly, didn’t produce a top finish for Jersey Shore but time drops were still coming as Meaghan Keegan and Ally Moore shaved off seconds and picked up team points with a fifth and seventh place respectively.

The last race of Day 1 was the 200-free relay, an event that Shore was defending. But their times throughout the season were only high enough to place them as a three seed in the District meet. Throw in the DQ’s with early relay starts over the past few months and emotions were all over the place. Brooks couldn’t do much about the seeding but she addressed the false start issue with a steady diet of relay start/exchanges during the past two weeks of practice.

“The girls were really excited for this race and I told them that they all had great races today,” said Brooks. “I also told them that they are ready for this race and not to worry about the other swimmers but they had to make sure they had safe starts.”

The area teams loaded some of their better swimmers to start of the race and Keegan needed all her speed to prevent any large separation in the opening 50-free leg. By the time she handed off the race to teammate Sander, Shore had clamped down the three spot behind Shamokin and Lewisburg.

Sander’s quick pace in her 50 yards moved Shore to second, just 7/100 seconds behind Lewisburg and 53/100s ahead of Shamokin.

Pressure was mounting as only two swimmers remained to try and regain and hold the lead. In jumped Taylor Fleming and her leg was fast enough to propel her to the front with a small lead before she handed off to the anchor.

It was maintaining that lead against Shamokin that had the Shore faithful holding their breath as O’Connor had to fight off last year’s Swimmer of the PIAA State Meet, Abby Doss. It didn’t seem to be a problem as both O’Connor and Doss turned in the exact same 50-split and the lead was cemented in Shore’s favor.

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