Sherk, Eagles claim three medals at States

By on March 21, 2018
Cocalico’s Zach Sherk swims the 100 breaststroke finals Saturday at the State Meet held at Bucknell University. Sherk claimed fourth place in the race, capping his three-medal weekend. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Cocalico’s Zach Sherk swims the 100 breaststroke finals Saturday at the State Meet held at Bucknell University. Sherk claimed fourth place in the race, capping his three-medal weekend. Photo by Missi Mortimer

LEWISBURG—As the action wound down Saturday night at the PIAA Swim Championships held at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium, Cocalico sophomore Zach Sherk has a smile as wide as the pool as he reflected on what he and his teammates accomplished.

Sherk had just capped an outstanding weekend for the Eagle swimmers early Saturday evening, claiming an individual fourth place medal in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 58.46. It was the third of the meet for Cocalico, and third for Sherk who helped his team to a 10th place finish in the overall team standings.

“I’m so happy for my brothers,” he said of senior teammates Colin Higinbotham, Michael White, Jake Musselman and Mark Ilgenfritz. “We worked hard and for it to end this way is fabulous. They are a great bunch of guys and I hope they all go on to do great things.”

Cocalico finished with a team total of 74.5 points in the Class AA competition.

“To have only five guys and come (in 10th) is awesome,” Cocalico Coach Kylie Turner said. “These guys, a lot of them being seniors, (this was the) last swimming race for some of them and I told them, ‘leave it all in the water.’ Bringing home three medals for Cocalico, I know last year it was one, so (their goal) was just to swim fast and let the swimming do the talking.”

Sherk, who had the fifth-fastest time in the prelims earlier on Saturday, did just that.

He found himself in the middle of the pack heading into the final 25 yards in the breaststroke before a big surge enabled him to nip Holy Ghost Prep junior Andrew Iannacone (58.52) for fourth.

“I felt good the first 50, kind of tanked it a little bit in the third (25) and then pushed off the third wall going into that final lap,” he said. “I saw where I was and just made a push to try and get in there. I just tried to get in and swim my best and that’s pretty much it. I felt good.”

Chase Bietz of Clearfield captured first place in a time of 57.08, edging runner-up Chris Kelly of Lower Moreland (57.99), third-place finisher Robert Spekis of Belle Vernon (58.31), and Sherk.

“Zach’s a competitor,” Turner said. “It doesn’t matter what race it is, but especially the breaststroke, he’s ready to compete. He’s having fun when he’s in the water and today just showed that. Coming in fifth seed and getting fourth, he’s just so happy and we are happy for him as well.”

Sherk added, “It’s amazing that I can actually get three medals this year. It’s my first individual, one of hopefully a few more, but the first one always (feels) the best.”

Earlier Saturday evening, both White and Musselman competed in the B final of the boys 100-yard freestyle. White posted a time of 48.66 to place tied for sixth in the race (14th overall) with Seton-LaSalle’s Cullin Baker, while Musselman was eighth (16th overall) with a time of 48.91.

Friday, things were a little squished atop the medal podium after the 200-yard freestyle relay, but if it bothered the Cocalico boys, you couldn’t tell from the smiles on their faces.

The Eagles had plenty of reasons to celebrate Friday, including a pair of medals on the first day of the PIAA Championships and a new school record in the final event.

Walking into Kinney Natatorium seeded ninth in the freestyle relay, Cocalico tore through the prelims, dropping two seconds in the first heat. The time of 1:28.23 held up to give the Eagles the third seed in the finals, but the school record wouldn’t last as long.

The team of Sherk, Musselman, Higinbotham and White dropped another 0.01 seconds, claiming bronze as White powered off the final turn and just out-touched the competition.

“It was a blur, I don’t remember much,” White said with a laugh.

“We definitely thought we could improve a lot more,” Musselman said of the relay’s qualifying time from the District Three championships. “We didn’t do as great as we could have, but were excited to be the outside heat coming in because we knew we could definitely improve our time a lot more.”

Cocalico opened the night with an eighth-place finish from Ilgenfritz, Sherk, Higinbotham and White in the 200 medley relay (1:40.63) and also saw White and Higinbotham finish 16th in the 200 freestyle and the 50 freestyle, respectively.

Lower Moreland captured the overall team championship with 207 points, well ahead of runner-up Erie Cathedral Prep (193) and third-place finisher Clearfield (159). District Three teams Bishop McDevitt (105, fifth), Schuylkill Valley (84, eighth); Gettysburg (78.5, ninth) and Cocalico all were among the top 10 teams.

NOTE: LNP’s Diana Pugliese contributed to this story.

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