The DuBois Lady Beavers wrapped up their stay at the PIAA Class AAA Swimming and Diving Championships Thursday morning by hitting the pool in their three final events at Bucknell University.
The squad was fresh off a historic night (Wednesday) for the program, one in which junior Gabi Wayne became the first female swimmer in school history to earn honors at the state meet by placing 12th in the 200 freestyle to capture an honorable-mention, all-state certificate.
DuBois was unable to push anyone through to the night races Thursday, but that doesn’t mean it was a down day for the Lady Beavers.
Wayne returned to the pool Thursday morning in the 100 freestyle preliminaries and once again put together a school-record performance. She touched the wall in 52.62, dropping her own record of 52.77 set at the District 9/10 Championships by .15 seconds.
However, unlike when she broke her own record Wednesday in the 200 free prelims, her personal-best time Thursday wasn’t quite fast enough to crack the Top 16 as she finished 22nd. Her time of 52.62 was .24 seconds off making the consolation finals.
Wayne’s 22nd-place finish was five spots higher than last year, when she was 27th in the 100 prelims as a sophomore with a then-school record time of 53.54.
“Unfortunately, Gabi’s time wasn’t quite fast enough to make it to the night races,” said DuBois coach Mike Gressler. “That’s a really fast and close race, and she swam really well but fell like two or three tenths short of advancing (to consolation finals).
“We’re extremely proud of what Gabi, and the rest of the team who qualified for states, was able to do down here. We never take going to the state meet for granted. Just making it here is a great accomplishment, and to win something here (medal or certificate) is something really special because this is one of the top high school meets in the country.”
To show how rugged the Class AAA event really is, one just has to compare Wayne’s times to those of her Class AA compatriots in the same events.
Wayne’s 100 free time Thursday would have placed her fifth in last year’s Class AA finals, while her 12th-place time Wednesday night in the 200 free would have earned her sixth place in Class AA a year ago.
This year’s Class AA championships get underway today at Bucknell. This time next year, Wayne and her returning teammates will be a part of that event as DuBois is dropping in classification as part of the PIAA’s new enrollment numbers for the upcoming two-year cycle.
Wayne’s senior teammate Melia Andrulonis saw her Lady Beavers career come to a close Thursday with two final swims.
First, she posted a time of 5:33.98 to finish 32nd in the 500 freestyle prelims. Andrulonis and Wayne then teamed up with junior Kiersten Pearce and sophomore Julie Marchioni to place 21st in the 400 freestyle relay preliminaries with a time of 3:46.73.
Wayne, Pearce and Marchioni, along with sophomore Lauren Usaitis who competed Wednesday, all return next year as multi-year state qualifiers. Another senior, Franki Henrichs, concluded her Lady Beavers’ career Wednesday as part of the 200 free relay team.
“I’m just so proud of all the girls who made it down here, the kids who made it to districts and the entire team as a whole for what they were able to accomplish this year,” said Gressler. “We had some of the younger kids down here watching and we told them to take it all in because you never know if you’re going to be back. Just because you’re here this year doesn’t guarantee you’ll be here next year.”
As for the move to AA next year, Gressler said it’s something he and the returning athletes are looking forward to.
“We’re definitely excited about the opportunities being in AA next year will provide,” he said. “We’ll be competing against schools similar to us in size and that will help level the playing field in one way.
“We’re going to accept the challenge of being in AA just like we did in AAA. But, the kids are going to have to continue to work just as hard and control what we can control — what we do. I always stress that to kids, you can’t control what your opponent does, only yourself.
“It’s not like we’re going to drop down and just own the place, and it’s like that across the board in all sports. Just because you’re in a smaller classification doesn’t mean it’s a gimme. It will be just as easy to not (win) in AA as it was in AAA if the kids don’t continue to work hard and push themselves to be the best they can be.
“We had a motto on our team shirt this year that said ,’It’s easy to want to be great until its time to do what greatness requires.’ The team really followed that this year to push themselves to be great, and they’ll need to do that next year as well to seize the opportunity (in AA) when it presents itself.”