Area swimmers combine for 10 gold medals at Schuylkill League championships
Tamaqua’s Kayla Sherry took gold in the girls 50 breaststroke. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Marian’s Danny Berlitz had a record-sitting performance in the 100 breaststroke. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Erika Zimmerman of Panther Valley swims to victory in the 200 freestyle at Saturday’s Schuylkill League Championships. For videos and a photo gallery go to www.tnonline.com. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
POTTSVILLE – Danny Berlitz has made a career of delivering exceptional performances.
The Marian senior did it again on Saturday.
But this time, he wasn’t alone.
Berlitz smashed two more records as he swam to gold in the 200 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke at the Schuylkill League Championships on a day the Times News area accounted for 10 gold medals.
As he has throughout the past four years, Berlitz lit up Pottsville’s Ned Hampford Natatorium, posting league and meet bests in both of his events.
His 1:42.89 in the 200 freestyle outdid the 1:43.12 he set on Feb. 10, 2018, and the 58.35 in the 100 backstroke surpassed the 59.77 league record set by North Schuylkill’s Reggie Crawford on Jan. 6, 2018, and the 1:00.69 meet record established by Millersburg’s Derek Yeager Feb. 17, 2007.
“Today was really good,” said Berlitz. “Yesterday (Friday) we did a hard practice, so, I know a lot of people tapered, or rested, (but) I’m kind of coming off of a really serious, strong set, and practice. So, to come in, and just step off the block and see what I could do with a three-year old tech suit, is pretty good.”
So strong it surprised even Berlitz.
“A 1:42, I’m really happy with that,” he said of his time in the 200 freestyle. “My fastest is a 1:40, so I’m right there.
“The 100 breast, I really was not thinking I was going to go that fast, but I was really happy with the swim.”
The gold rush continued beyond Berlitz, with Marian’s Maddie Dando swimming to victories in the 200 IM (2:16.89) and 100 backstroke (59.79).
Panther Valley’s Emily Newton won the 100 IM (1:04.31) and 100 breaststroke (1:08.75), and teammate Erika Zimmerman swam to victories in the 200 freestyle (2:02.32) and 500 freestyle (5:24.85).
Tamaqua’s Brianna Dumond, Kayla Sherry, Sarah Maue and Nicole Aguero-Ramirez opened the Schuylkill League Swimming Championships Saturday by winning the 200 medley relay with a time of 2:04.27, eclipsing their seed of 2:08.22. Sherry also won the 50 breaststroke (34.62) and placed third in the 100 breaststroke (1:13.29), and Dumond posted a second-place finish in the 50 backstroke (30.08).
Panther Valley’s Jacqueline Kokinda was second in both the 50 butterfly (28.58) and 100 butterfly (1:02.69).
In the boys’ completion, Alexander Barron grabbed a runner-up finish for the Raiders in the 50 breaststroke (33.61).
Dando, like Berlitz, has tasted success at the league meet before, winning the 100 free and the 100 backstroke year ago.
While the sophomore didn’t go under her seed time of 2:14.09 in the 200 IM, she did better her mark in the 100 backstroke, a showing that was a microcosm of the improvement she has made in the pool.
“I’m definitely a lot better than I was last season,” said Dando. “I’m going two, three seconds faster than I was at meets last season, so I’ve really improved my training, my health, just everything. So it’s all great that it’s really coming together. I’m really happy with where I am right now.”
The way Dando sees it, she’s far from finished.
“Every time I practice, I always think of what my accomplishments are,” she said. “So I’m constantly thinking, I want to win two league golds; I want to win district gold; my goal for YMCA is to qualify for nationals. So those are my three main goals.
“I think goals are really what moves us in swimming. Swimming is such a mental sport. If you don’t have the mental strength to keep you moving, you’re not going to do well. I keep trying to build myself up, not get too nervous and everything. So it’s really great to come and win two more golds.”
Dando won the 200 IM going away, cruising past North Schuylkill’s Brinn DeAngelo (2:21.78). Blue Mountain’s Mallorie Dukmen (1:01.83) was second in the 100 backstroke.
Newton was triumphant in the 100 breaststroke a year ago. The sophomore blew past her seed times of 1:11.48 in the 100 breaststroke, and 1:06.30 in the 100 IM.
“I was expecting to drop times,” said Newton. “But I did very well in both my events. I dropped a lot of time in my IM and I dropped more than I expected in my breaststroke, so that was good.”
Newton admitted to being a little nervous prior to her races.
“Especially for my breaststroke, because Taleah (Ruben, Pottsville) was seeded ahead of me, and she’s also really fast.”
Newton topped Ruben (1:09.35) by almost a second in the breaststroke, and pulled away from Pottsville’s Isabelle Mettam (1:20.96) in the 100 IM.
“I definitely want to drop more time in my breaststroke for districts,” said Newton. “My goal is to go to states. I really want to go to states.
“I’m not exactly sure about a second event yet for districts, so I’m just focusing on my breaststroke for now.”
A freshman, Zimmerman rolled past Blue Mountain’s Katherine Sarnes in both the 200 freestyle (2:06.04), and again in the 500 free (5:31.08).
“I felt like I could have went faster on my 500 freestyle toward the end,” said Zimmerman. “I want to be under 5:15 for the 500, and under 2:00 for my 200 freestyle.
“I have to work on holding my breath more, and learning how to pace myself out better for the 200 free. I burn myself out in the first 100 because I just want to get ahead.”
Zimmerman knows the time she puts in for both events will pay off.
“I work very hard,” she said. “It’s a long battle to try and get up top. From ASL (Anthracite Swimming League), I’ve always started at the bottom, and I always had to work myself up … (but) it’s very satisfying. It’s very nice to realize you went from down here, to up here.”
Sherry started the afternoon helping her team win the 200 medley relay, before finding some redemption in the 50 breaststroke.
“It’s been a rough couple of years for me, because I used to play basketball,” said the senior. “Last year, I was seeded first in the 50 breaststroke, and I got third, so it was just great to come out on top.”
Sherry won by a wide margin over North Schuylkill’s Ashley Hepler (47.22). But it was the relay she was most proud of.
“My relay really impressed me. I was so glad that we pulled that out,” she said. “Honestly, I’m way more excited for the medley, because that was really unexpected for us. But just the energy for the team, that was amazing.
“We just really clicked today. I don’t know what happened, but we worked really well together, and we wanted it a lot. We just pushed ourselves as much as we can.”
The quartet’s time was faster than the 2:08.22 they were seeded with – and the 2:05.78 of Blue Mountain.
“It’s a huge confidence booster to come out in that first race of the day, and have swims of a lifetime for some of them,” said Raiders’ head coach Jennifer Paisley. “It was really awesome to see how excited they were, and how excited they were for the rest of the meet to continue. And, honestly, every single girl, from the first heat, to the last heat, those girls were swimming best times.
“That’s definitely what you like to see in the postseason.”
NO POOL, NO PROBLEM … Zimmerman and Newton, like Berlitz and Dando, both swim independently. Panther Valley and Marian do not field full programs.
“It’s awesome, just because we’re independent and we don’t have a pool, so to show everybody that we can do it without a pool, without any of that,” said Newton.
“It’s amazing,” added Berlitz, who has committed to the University of Michigan. “I’m so happy to kind of guide the way for a lot of other swimmers, and for people on my team, like Liam (Leonard, a freshman). I’m really happy to just kind of pave the road out for them, and show them that, even though we are independent, we don’t have a pool, we can still shine no matter where we are. Anybody can do it; you just got to put your mind to it, and be determined to the end.”
WHAT’S NEXT? … Though dominant in both events, Berlitz was noncommittal on his plans for the postseason.
“I don’t know what I’m going to swim at districts yet,” he said. “I’m just kind of figuring stuff out; swimming here, swimming there. So even at districts, we’ll see how close I can get to some pool records. And at states, same thing, see if I can break more records and stuff like that.”
SCHUYLKILL LEAGUE SWIMMING
200 medley relay - 1. Tamaqua (Brianna Dumond, Kayla Sherry, Sarah Maue, Nicole Aguero-Ramirez) 2:04.27, 2. Blue Mountain, 3. Pottsville; 200 freestyle - 1. Erika Zimmerman (Panther Valley) 2:02.32, 2. Katherine Sarnes (Blue Mountain), 3. Morgan Yuengling (Blue Mountain), 5. Madelyn Jones (Tamaqua); 200 IM - 1. Maddie Dando (Marian) 2:16.89, 2. Brinn DeAngelo (North Schuylkill), 3. Maria Lopez (Blue Mountain), 5. Maura Walker (Tamaqua); 100 butterfly - 1. Taleah Ruben (Pottsville) 1:01.85, 2. Jacqueline Kokinda (Panther Valley), 3. Te’ah Sponsler (Halifax); 50 freestyle - 1. Kylie Tohill (Pottsville) 25.09, 2. Kendall Bernardyn (Mahanoy), 3. Jazqueline O’Neill (Blue Mountain), 8. Nicole Aguero-Ramirez (Tamaqua), 18. Tori Markiewicz (Tamaqua), 20. Jocelyn Clause (Tamaqua); 100 backstroke - 1. Maddie Dando (Marian) 59.79, 2. Mallorie Dukmen (Blue Mountain), 3. Rylee Bolinsky (North Schuylkill). 4. Brianna Dumond (Tamaqua), 7. Chloe Dickman (Panther Valley); 50 breaststroke - 1. Kayla Sherry (Tamaqua) 34.62, 2. Ashley Hepler (North Schuylkill); 200 freestyle relay - 1. Pottsville (Julia Balulis, Taleah Ruben, Elena Martinko, Kylie Tohill) 1:45.20, 2. Blue Mountain, 3. North Schuylkill, 6. Tamaqua; 500 freestyle - 1. Erika Zimmerman (Panther Valley) 5:24.85, 2. Katherine Sarnes (Blue Mountain), 3. Sara Zimmerman (Blue Mountain), 4. Sarah Maue (Tamaqua), 6. Madelyn Jones (Tamaqua); 100 IM - 1. Emily Newton (Panther Valley) 1:04.31, 2. Isabelle Mettam (Pottsville), 3. Ashley Hepler (North Schuylkill); 50 butterfly - 1. Olivia Haas (Blue Mountain) 27.90, 2. Jacqueline Kokinda (Panther Valley), 3. Rylee Bolinsky (North Schuylkill), 6. Chloe Dickman (Panther Valley), 8. Maura Walker (Tamaqua); 100 freestyle - 1. Kylie Tohill (Pottsville) 55.43, 2. Olivia Haas (Blue Mountain), 3. Brinn DeAngelo (North Schuylkill), 12. Nicole Aguero-Ramirez (Tamaqua); 50 backstroke - 1. Mallorie Dukmen (Blue Mountain) 28.28, 2. Brianna Dumond (Tamaqua), 3. Elizabeth Rakus (Pottsville), 7. Tori Markiewicz (Tamaqua), 8. Jocelyn Clause (Tamaqua); 100 breaststroke - 1. Emily Newton (Panther Valley) 1:08.75, 2. Taleah Ruben (Pottsville), 3. Kayla Sherry (Tamaqua), 6. Sarah Maue (Tamaqua), 11. Hailey Toth (Tamaqua); 400 freestyle relay - 1. Blue Mountain (Olivia Haas, Jacqueline O’Neill, Mallorie Dukmen, Morgan Yuengling) 3:52.32, 2. Pottsville, 3. North Schuylkill, 4. Tamaqua.
200 medley relay - 1. Pottsville (Zach Turnitza, Jordan Young, Caleb Reedy, Zaidian Van Orden) 1:41.89, 2. Blue Mountain, 3. Blue Mountain, 5. Tamaqua; 200 freestyle - 1. Danny Berlitz (Marian) 1:42.89*, 2. Ty Rabenstein (Blue Mountain), 3. Travis Stanitis (North Schuylkill), 7. Caleb Knepper (Panther Valley), 12. Nathaniel Kovalchick (Tamaqua); 200 IM - 1. Logan Roadcap (Millersburg) 2:13.05, 2. Holden Andrewcavage (North Schuylkill), 3. Torin Perry (Blue Mountain), 4. Liam Leonard (Marian); 100 butterfly - 1. Ryan Schreffler (Nativity) 51.79, 2. Nathaniel Powers (Blue Mountain), 3. Caleb Reedy (Pottsville); 50 freestyle - 1. Dylan Schreffler (Nativity) 22.69, 2. Andrew Johnson (Blue Mountain), 3. Sean Sopko (Blue Mountain), 8. Zeno Zukovich (Tamaqua), 15. John Paceley (Tamaqua), 25. Benjamin Hehn (Tamaqua); 100 backstroke - 1. Logan Roadcap (Millersburg) 1:01.40, 2. Derrick Yuengling (Blue Mountain), 3. Gregory Rautzhan (Blue Mountain), 5. Ian Machay (Tamaqua), 6. Liam Leonard (Marian); 50 breaststroke - 1. Eliot Keith (Blue Mountain) 30.27, 2. Alexander Barron (Tamaqua), 3. Ryan Seiger (Pottsville); 200 freestyle relay - 1. Pottsville (Zach Turnitza, Evan Lecher, Zaidian Van Orden, Jordan Young) 1:31.54, 2. Blue Mountain, 3. North Schuylkill, 7. Tamaqua; 500 freestyle - 1. Ty Rabenstein (Blue Mountain) 4:54.35, 2. Zaidian Van Orden (Pottsville), 3. Travis Stanitis (North Schuylkill), 7. Caleb Knepper (Panther Valley), 9. Nathaniel Kovalchick (Tamaqua); 100 IM - 1. Jordan Young (Pottsville) 59.32, 2. Derrick Yuengling (Blue Mountain); 50 butterfly - 1. Andrew Johnson (Blue Mountain) 25.22, 2. Caleb Reedy (Pottsville), 3. Jack Kalinich (Pottsville), 5. Gauge Hartney (Tamaqua); 100 freestyle - 1. Ryan Schreffler (Nativity) 48.77, 2. Dylan Schreffler (Nativity), 3. Mikolas Barbe (Blue Mountain), 11. Zeno Zukovich (Tamaqua), 12. John Paceley (Tamaqua); 50 backstroke - 1. Zach Turnitza (Pottsville) 24.92, 2. Nathaniel Powers (Blue Mountain), 3. Jack Logothetides (Pottsville), 5. Ian Machay (Tamaqua); 100 breaststroke - 1. Danny Berlitz (Marian) 58.35*, 2. Eliot Keith (Blue Mountain), 3. Tabor Perry (Blue Mountain), 7. Alexander Barron (Tamaqua); 400 freestyle relay - 1. Pottsville (Jordan Young, Evan Lecher, Zaidian Van Orden, Zach Turnitza) 3:22.15*, 2. Blue Mountain, 3. North Schuylkill, 7. Tamaqua.
* - league and meet record.