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Marian’s Berlitz is golden again

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    Marian’s Danny Berlitz competes in the 500 freestyle at states on Thursday. The senior won the event and set a record. CHUCK HIXSON/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    Panther Valley’s Emily Newton swims the 100 breaststroke at the state meet Thursday. CHUCK HIXSON/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    Northern Lehigh’s Ben Lehman takes a breath while swimming the 100 breaststroke at the PIAA state meet. CHUCK HIXSON/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    Marian’s Maddie Dando talks to one of her competitors in the 100 backstroke at the PIAA state meet Thursday. CHUCK HIXSON/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published March 15. 2019 12:12PM

LEWISBURG — As Danny Berlitz walked out onto the bulkhead to stand at the fifth starting block, preparing for the 500 freestyle final, there was something different about him.

The usual confidence was there, but he was slightly more animated.

He knew that this race, his last as a high school swimmer, was a big one.

His last race was going to be one against his friendly rival Luke Mikesell of Clearfield High School, and the two may as well have been the only two swimming, because the odds of anyone else winning or finishing second weren’t very good.

Last year, the two were in the same battle as Berlitz seemed to be on his way to gold when Mikesell passed him on lap 14 and grabbed gold, leaving Berlitz to win silver.

The two ignored each other on the starting blocks and as the race started, Berlitz took a small lead. But on each lap, the lead grew until it reached a full second after eight laps.

On the 10th and 12th laps, Mikesell started to catch up and on that fateful 14th lap, he made up .63 seconds and passed Berlitz on lap 16.

The two touched the far wall nearly simultaneously to complete lap 19 and the whole race came down to a 25-yard sprint.

From there, Berlitz found another gear and he moved ahead to touch the wall first by just under one-half of a second to retrieve the gold medal that Mikesell had grabbed the year before, doing it in a state record time of 4:24.07 — beating the old standard by .35 seconds.

“I just kind of remembered last year and how it was a heartbreaker, so I was definitely a lot more nervous than yesterday [when he won gold in the 200-yard individually medley],” said Berlitz. “I knew this was going to be a thousand times harder than yesterday, just because of everything, the circumstances and how things planned out.”

The two friends embraced before getting out of the pool and went back to being friends, laughing and joking together, even while standing side-by-side on the medal stand.

Berlitz’s high school career ends with two golds and a silver in the 500 freestyle and two gold medals in the 200 IM.

“I would have never gotten the 4:24 without him [Mikesell] pushing me the last six laps,” said Berlitz. “I didn’t use my legs as much and wanted to conserve those until the end, that was definitely the thing that I had in mind going into the race, was preserving a lot more energy.

“I didn’t even ponder the record. Today I was telling myself I was going to go 4:25, and to go 4:24-low is absolutely amazing. I’m excited with what I just did.”

In Thursday’s morning session, young swimmers were the story as both freshman Erika Zimmerman and sophomore Emily Newton of Panther Valley made their debuts in the PIAA meet.

Both placed 20th in their respective events with Zimmerman finishing in a time of 5:21.76 in the 500 freestyle and Newton posting a 1:08.47 in the 100 breaststroke. Zimmerman, who was disappointed with her performance in districts, came into the 500 free with the 30th best time and moved up a full 10 spots, besting her district qualifying time by .34 seconds.

“I’m pretty happy with how I swam today,” said Zimmerman. “I beat my qualifying time and had a great experience out here. It gives you motivation to make it back here next year.”

Marian’s Maddie Dando was the ‘veteran’ of the group, having competed in the 100 backstroke last year. Dando was back in the event this year and placed 20th, cutting nearly a full second of her time in last year’s preliminaries.

Another sophomore, Northern Lehigh’s Ben Lehman, finished 30th in the 100 breaststroke preliminaries with a time of 1:03.66.

PIAA SWIMMING DAY 2

(at Bucknell University)

GIRLS

100 Freestyle - 1. Karen Siddoway (Northgate) 50.36, 2. Noel Fresa (Upper Perkiomen) 50.96, 3. Maura Fluehr (Springfield Township) 51.30, 4. Emma Wilson (Grove City) 51.51.

500 Freestyle - 1. Abby Doss (Shamokin) 4:52.01, 2. Meghan French (West York) 4:59.50, 3. Trinity Schmidt (Springfield Township) 5:06.97, 4. Kaelyn McClain (Elizabeth Forward) 5:08.13.

100 Backstroke - 1. Kate Luft (Northern York) 54.45, 2. Megan Maholic (Villa Maria) 54.98, 3. Marlee Rickert (Schuylkill Valley) 55.30, 4. Sydney Houtz (Juniata) 57.63.

100 Breaststroke - 1.Annie O’Dare (Gwynedd Mercy) 1:01.80, 2. Heather Gardner (Mt. Pleasant) 1:02.77, 3. Jessie McMurray (York Catholic) 1:03.29, 4. Margaret Walting (Holy Redeemer) 1:03.67.

400 Freestyle Relay - 1. Fairview 3:30.79, 2. Gwynedd Mercy 3:32.67, 3. Schuylkill Valley 3:33.05, 4. Wyoming Seminary 3:34.71.

BOYS

Diving - 1. Kyle Maziarz (North Catholic) 447.55, 2. Andrew Cestra (Beaver) 444.85, 3. Quinn Rollman (Shamokin) 424.80, 4. Jack Still (Boiling Springs) 419.30.

100 Freestyle - 1. Ian Shahan (Belle Vernon) 45.39, 2. Josiah Lauver (Bishop McDevitt) 45.50, 3. Conner McBeth (Neshannock) 45.98, 4. Christian Coleman (Lewisburg) 46.30.

500 Freestyle - 1. Danny Berlitz (Marian Catholic) 4:24.07 (new state record), 2. Luke Mikesell (Clearfield) 4:24.52, 3. Adam Morrison (Deer Lakes) 4:41.95, 4. Andrew Pierre (Mars) 4:43.01.

100 Backstroke - 1. Ethan Neff (Cathedral Prep) 51.02, 2. Zachary Titus (Titusville) 51.70, 3. Luke Stine (Danville) 51.87, 4. Sam Jordan (Mountoursville) 52.38.

100 Breaststroke - 1. Robert Spekis (Belle Vernon) 56.63, 2. Andrew Iannacone (Holy Ghost Prep) 56.98, 3. Zachary Sherk (Cocalico) 57.76, 4. William Crites (Greensburg Salem) 58.43.

400 Freestyle Relay - 1. Bishop McDevitt 3:08.89, 2. Central Columbia 3:13.17, 3. Lower Moreland 3:14.19, 4. Clearfield 3:14.33.

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