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Making a huge splash
Cocalico boys win two golds, earn second-place team finish in AA
Sometimes a simple little tweak can make a world of difference. That certainly was the case for the Cocalico boys’ 400 free relay team Saturday at the District Three Championships held at Cumberland Valley.
After finishing tied for fourth a year ago at Districts with its fastest swimmer, Michael White, in the anchor position, Cocalico Coach Matt Woods decided to switch things up this year.
“You learn,” Woods said of the switch. “Last year with Michael going last, I thought we got into a little bit of trouble. We got, not behind the pack, but people were diving in when we were trying to come in and it was really wakey, and I said, ‘Enough of that. We’re going to put Michael White second, we’re going to get out in the clean water, and we’re going to bring it home.’”
With White in the number two position, bring it home they did.
The Cocalico boys, comprised of Jake Musselman, White, Colin Higinbotham and Hunter Keck, shaved eight seconds off their seed time, posting a time of 3:13.75 to end the meet with a gold-medal performance.
“What’s funny is we went to a meet at West Point this year to watch Sydney Evans swim, and we were watching their relays, and I think, like, the third or fourth place relay at that meet went 3:13,” Woods said. “I was joking with them and said, ‘How about a 3:13 at States this year?’ So a 3:13 at Districts, I’ll take. Matching that or going a little bit faster at States, I guess, will be our goal going forward. But I thought it was definitely in the realm of possibility. So I was very, very pleased with that effort.”
Keck said he and his three teammates surprised themselves with such a fast time.
“I figured we’d have a chance of winning it, but it was ridiculous the time we went,” he said. ‘I didn’t think it would be that fast. I was thinking like 3:16. That was crazy.”
The 400 free relay swim was one of two golds the Eagles earned this past weekend as the 200 medley relay team of Zach Sherk, Keck, Higinbotham and White opened the meet Friday by capturing the first relay gold medal under Woods’ leadership with a time of 1:39.21. In that one, Bishop McDevitt appeared to beat the Eagles but was later disqualified after it was ruled one of Bishop McDevitt swimmers had an early start, opening the door for the Eagles to claim the race.
All told, the Cocalico boys (219 points) claimed 10 medals on their way to a second place finish behind only York Suburban (231) in the AA team standings.
“We had some high aspirations coming into the day,” Woods said. “We saw the team scores and kinda did some calculating and thought we might be able to sneak in there and give York Suburban a run for their money. And I think we gave them a little scare at the end there, but finishing second in the District Meet is pretty impressive. That relay was definitely the highlight today.
“It’s got to be the highest high,” he continued. “It’s a gold medal. Obviously, the medley relay gold medal was awesome as well, but you feel bad for Bishop McDevitt getting DQ’d in that and kinda bumping up. So it was nice to get some gold medals around people’s necks that were actually where we touched the wall first.”
On the girls’ side, Cocalico senior Morgan Haines picked up the final two medals of the weekend for the Eagle girls, who finished 19th in AAA with 25.5 points. The West Chester University signee earned a pair of sixth-place medals in both the 100 free (52.92) and 200 free (1:54.64).
Getting back to the Cocalico boys, Keck, Higinbotham and White all left Cumberland Valley with four medals each.
In addition to the two relay wins, White took home a third place in the 100 free with a school record time of 47.14, and was sixth in the 200 free (1:47.80). Like White, Keck also claimed a bronze medal with a third place finish in the 100 breast (1:00.66) while earning eighth place in the 100 fly (54.56). Higinbotham added a fifth place finish in the 50 free (22.35) and was seventh in the 100 fly (54.30).
“(White) had a great swim,” Woods said of his performance in the 100 free. “He had his mind set on going 47 and beating the record today when he came in. At the League Meet, he went 48 and finished third or fourth, but he had an awful start. He was on the block kinda looking around and then he dove in. It was terrible. So he was happy to redeem himself here and he swam exceptionally well. That’s the fastest time in school history. So that was phenomenal.”
Also winning medals for the Eagle boys were: Musselman, eighth place in the 200 free (1:48.72); and Sherk, a fourth place finish in the 100 breast (1:00.77).
“We’ve had some pretty good squads up here the last couple years on the boys side and competed and done really well,” Woods said. “But I think this is probably the best squad that we’ve had up here to have all those medals. To win two gold medals in relays is phenomenal. As a coach, when you’re running around the pool deck congratulating people, to run up and then try to give a medal away, and having that issue the whole meet, that’s the best type of meet that you can possibly have. So that’s phenomenal.”
Keck, the lone senior of the group, added, “It was awesome. We had thoughts to win the meet all together, and it came down, I think we only lost 13 points. We were really pumped up and that last relay, we won and we were so excited and it was a great day.”
Cocalico qualified for the State Meet, which will be held at Bucknell University March 15-16 (AA) and March 17-18 (AAA), in 11 different events.
In AAA girls, Haines qualified in both the 100 and 200 free. In AA boys, both the medley and free relays will go, along with White and Musselman in the 100 and 200 free; Keck and Sherk in the 100 breast; and Higinbotham in the 50 free.