STATES: One Team's Journey (Submitted by Pennsbury Swimming)

Nine Pennsbury swimmers will be competing at this weekend’s state meet at Bucknell University. (The article and photos below were submitted by Pennsbury swimming)

STATES: One Team’s Journey

After a season spanning 17 weeks, scores of practices, time in the pool during the pre-dawn hours of winter and nearly a dozen meets later, it all comes down to one word for nine athletes from Pennsbury: STATES.

With their qualifying times coming out of the District One AAA Championships, nine Pennsbury swimmers are headed to the coveted high school swim event of the season, hosted by Bucknell University March 14-16.  The 400 Free Relay teams for both the girls and boys squads are competing. Junior Brooke Garretson has qualified to compete in the 200 Individual Medley event, and the second alternate Boys 200 Medley Relay hopes to earn a slot for the championship event.

The diverse squad representing Pennsbury High School is led by three seniors: Liam White, Matt Steele and Andrew Kim. The remaining team members are juniors Will Deitch and Brooke Garretson, sophomores Avery Stimmel and Ryan Ward, along with freshmen Valerie Lawton and Maggie Sweitzer. Brooke Garretson makes a return trip to STATES, competing in the 200 Individual Medley.

"The STATES meet is special because it's so difficult to qualify for an individual event. I'm excited to be going back to STATES for a second time and I'm glad my relay will be joining me,” Brooke said.

Making their first appearance at STATES in the coaching capacity are Nick Lucca and Tracey Hemmerle. Both are new to leading the PHS Swim program and excited for the opportunity. Both coaches have a great deal of experience swimming as Coach Tracey was a conference All-American for the University of Texas and Coach Nick swam in college for Misericordia University as well as being a PHS Swim Team alum, graduating in 2014.

Coach Nick said “I’m beyond ecstatic to take such a strong, fun-loving group of kids to compete at one of the fastest meets in the country. To say that making this meet is difficult would be an understatement. These kids have worked tirelessly so that they could say they did all they could to qualify for this meet. They knew that making this meet would take more than they thought they had—and they still rose to the opportunity.”

What makes this event so special? We asked Matt Steele, who typically swims the 100-yard butterfly.

"For me, STATES is an amazing way to end not only my high school season, but my swimming career,” he said. “The team has pushed me to try harder and always give my best.  I have also made some of my best friends through the team."

The bond formed amongst the student athletes is evident.

Boys’ team co-captain Andrew Kim, who swims the breaststroke leg for the Medley Relay team, explains, “The team experience is great. We all get along, and it is nice to know that you have teammates to support you throughout the season. My favorite part is going out to eat with the team and just having a good time with them.”

Many high school swimmers spend time with both high school and club swim teams, tallying upwards of 20-25 hours a week in the pool. That’s in addition to a full course load and other extra-curricular activities, including community service hours and projects. These athletes are committed, disciplined and driven. Seeing all of that hard work culminate into an opportunity to compete at STATES is a memory they will carry with them long after they leave the pool deck.

“Making it to the meet is not an easy task, with many fast swimmers in the state of Pennsylvania. Our group is an impressive bunch who are looking forward to some fast swims at STATES,” offered Coach Tracey.

Boys team co-captain senior Liam White, who swims sprint and distance freestyle, explains it this way, “As captain of the team, it’s important that I inspire the younger kids to work hard but also have fun because swimming should be balance. I am so lucky to have the privilege of leading this team, and I hope the younger swimmers get the same opportunity both in leadership and STATES that I have today.”

For these nine competitors, STATES is an opportunity to represent their school on the big stage. It’s a chance to compete for oneself, and as relay participants, their total is greater than the sum of their parts. Perhaps above all else, it’s a chance to make their team proud of how far they’ve come. We wish them and all the competitors well at STATES.