Four TN swimmers headed to states
Marian’s Danny Berlitz swims the butterfly leg of the 200 IM during the District 11 swimming championships. Berlitz won the event in record time and will be participating in the PIAA state meet, which begins on Wednesday. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Panther Valley’s Emily Newton competes in the 50 free at districts. The PV sophomore will compete in the 100 breaststroke at states. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Marian's Maddie Dando takes off in the 100 backstroke at districts. Dando qualified for states in the event. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Panther Valley's Erika Zimmerman takes a breath while swimming the 500 free at districts. Zimmerman qualified for states in the event. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Four area swimmers will spend the next couple of days pursuing dreams when they take part in the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships at Bucknell University in Lewisburg.
Danny Berlitz of Marian will look to defend last year’s gold medal in the 200-yard IM and upgrade last year’s silver in the 500-yard freestyle to gold.
Meanwhile, another Marian swimmer — sophomore Maddie Dando — will be making her first appearance at states, as will a pair of Panther Valley swimmers — freshman Erika Zimmerman and sophomore Emily Newton.
Berlitz has appeared at states in each of his four high school seasons, winning his first gold medal in 2017 in the 500 free. Last season, he added two more medals and will look to add to his total in his senior year. Berlitz recently set new District 11 records in the 200 IM and 500 free. The new marks eclipsed the ones he set in those events a year earlier. His time of 1:49.81 in the IM at districts bested his time of 1:49.97 that won gold last season at states.
“Every year that I’ve gone out there I’ve felt a little more comfortable,” said Berlitz after his 200-IM win at districts. “I think it helps a little to know what to expect and know how to prepare and what you may want to do a little differently from the previous year.
“I’m just going out looking to compete well and see what I can do.”
The other three swimmers don’t have the luxury of knowing exactly what to expect. As much as anyone can tell them about it, it likely isn’t going to be enough to fully prepare them.
For many underclassmen, just getting to states is half the battle and like Berlitz, they figure to get better every time they go to Bucknell. Dando, Zimmerman and Newton are all looking to reverse that trend and capture medals on their first trip.
Dando took gold in the 100 backstroke to earn her trip to states and was the only swimmer from District 11 to qualify in the event. Dando’s time of 59.47 from districts puts her 22nd in the seedings.
“It’s going to be exciting, that’s for sure,” said Dando after qualifying for states. “I’m happy with my performance in districts, but I think I can shave more time off for states and I’m going to be working on that between now and then.”
Newton finished just .49 seconds behind district gold medalist Gianna Farina of Notre Dame-Green Pond, but her time was good enough to qualify her for states. Right after her district performance, she had a clue that she might have qualified, but knew not to get too confident.
“I’m happy with my time either way, and it was a good race and great experience,” she said after receiving her district silver. “I think it may be good enough, but you have to wait and see.”
As for Zimmerman, the trip to states is a bit of redemption. The freshman was disappointed to take silver in the 100 freestyle even though she put up a good fight against Salisbury senior Sarah Bobeck, who was favored to win the event.
Zimmerman had the top qualifying time in the 500 free coming into districts, but also finished with a silver in that event, which is the one that she eventually qualified for at states.
“I’m really focusing now on the 500,” she said after the second-place finish in the 100. “I’m disappointed in (the 100 freestyle) but I’m hoping for a better result in the 500 and that I can get to states.”
While she didn’t know for sure when she left districts whether or not she would be heading to Bucknell, her time allowed her to qualify in the 500.
A bit of a monkey wrench was thrown into this year’s event when the Bucknell women’s basketball team qualified for the Patriot League semifinals, which they are set to host on Thursday night. Because of that, all of the staging and entry to the Kinney Natatorium for participants and spectators will be through Bucknell’s Gerhard Fieldhouse, located behind the natatorium on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Fans and participants will enter through Sojka Pavillion, as usual, for Saturday’s 3A events.