Cocalico’s Marino passes the test
Sam Marino had always dreamed of winning a medal at the PIAA State Swim Championships.
She had come away empty-handed on her first two trips, so late Thursday night at Bucknell University when she was finally awarded the eighth-place medal in the 100 backstroke, the Cocalico junior could hardly contain herself.
“It was actually a goal I had coming into the season so to be able to actually achieve that is just so awesome,” she said Monday, recalling her big medal-winning moment. “I was so excited and just so overjoyed…I was just so happy to finally do it.”
She ended the suspense early Thursday when she she advanced to the A finals with a time of 56.95, which guaranteed her a medal. She wasn’t able to duplicate or better that time Thursday night in the finals (57.23), but her eighth place was already secured.
By earning the medal, she becomes the first to so at Cocalico since Cari Czarnecki was a medalist in 2004.
“To medal at that meet is an extremely impressive accomplishment,” Cocalico Coach Matt Woods said. “I heard some good things from her during the meet, like talking about numbers of kicks off the wall during turns, and how she wanted to approach her 200 in finals, which really excite me for her continued improvement and next year. Sam has always been a kid who does well on will-power, practicing hard, competing hard. If she continues wrapping her head around more technical aspects of her strokes, she is going to be even more dangerous next year.”
In addition to her medal-winning performance in the back, Marino also placed a respectable 14th overall in the 200 free. After swimming a 1:53.93 in the prelims, Marino made the B finals where she bettered her time to earn her 14th place, touching the wall in 1:53.33.
“She swam very well,” Woods said of Marino’s 200 race. “She told me she felt better in the water during her 200 free than what she did at districts, and I thought she looked better. I thought she did a good job of pushing that first 100 in her swim in the consolation finals. I think she would have liked to hold on a little better and finish closer to that 1:52 she had last year, but I thought she swam a great race.”
Thursday morning in the 100 back prelims, Marino swam a consistent race and used her strength in “underwaters” to reach the final and clinch the medal.
“Her backstroke swim in the morning was phenomenal, and that’s where you earn the medal,” Woods said. “I thought her turnover was great, and her under-waters off the walls were great as well.”
Marino said the difference came down to the last wall.
“My underwaters have always been a strength of mine,” she said. “That’s where I got my speed but my last wall had always tailed off a little bit. I really worked on that last wall, and that’s the only thing I changed. That really pushed me over the top I think.”
In addition to Marino, Cocalico sent two other swimmers to States in junior Sidney Evans and freshman Morgan Haines.
Evans, who was fighting a sickness all last week, did compete but clearly wasn’t 100 percent as she finished 27th in the 500 free (5:12.49) and 31st in the 200 I.M. (2:13.68).
“Her first 100 in IM was good,” Woods said of Evans. “She usually has a great back-to-breast turn, and comes up firing in breaststroke. But during her prelims swim you could tell she was struggling to gather herself after that turn. Her 500 time was really impressive considering her week. A lot of kids struggle holding the time they did at Districts, and she was right there. These kids work so hard for so long, practicing six days a week, practicing on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve…her club has probably been practicing since September, and to get sick a week before a meet like this is terrible luck. She should be extremely proud of the effort she put into her swims.”
As for Haines, the freshman definitely got her feet wet in her first State’s performance competing in the 100 free. She finished in a tie for first in her heat Thursday and placed a respectable 24th with a time of 53.56, which broke her own school record.
“(Morgan) was great,” Woods said. “I was a little worried about being up there so long and not swimming until Thursday, But I thought she handled herself very well. She won her heat, swam a clean race, and even lowered her school record. I don’t think we could have asked for anything better from her. Hopefully that taste of the meet will motivate her to get back there and be swimming at night.”