Article by John Tuscano, The Patriot-News
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Cari Zelko’s smile following Tuesday afternoon’s Mid-Penn Keystone swimming dual between her Lower Dauphin Falcons and Mechanicsburg was as much for relief than joy.
The boys’ and girls’ meets at Milton Hershey Middle School’s Catherine Hall embodied what a competitive swim meet should be.
Momentum swings and close races where every point and every place counts.
And Zelko was dangerously close to seeing her Falcons get swept in what was a key division dual in the early part of this season.
That was until Matt Feathers, John Holey and Austin Cassel teamed up to take first, third and fourth place in the 100 breaststroke to lead the host Falcons to an 89-81 victory in the boys’ meet.
On the girls’ side, Mechanicsburg held on for an 87-83 wins thanks to some clutch performances early in the 100 freestyle and late in the 100 backstroke.
“I was starting to get a little nervous,” said Zelko of the boys’ meet.
“But our backstrokers and breaststrokers all came up big, plus we had the 400 free relay ready to go, because I expected this to be pretty close.”
The Lower Dauphin boys (2-0, 2-0) made their move when Alex Martino and Adam Brock went one-two in the 100 backstroke to cut the deficit to a mere four points, but it was the takeover of the breaststroke that clinched the meet for the home team.
Zelko’s team clinched the meet when Austin Zelko, Feathers, Martino and Virginia-bound Tim Maurer cruised to a 3:40.61 in the 400 freestyle relay.
Maurer was also part of the winning 200 medley relay and he also handily won the 200 free and 100 free. Austin Zelko added individual wins in the 100 fly and 500 free.
But the Mechanicsburg boys (2-1, 1-1) would not go away and led the meet 66-58 after they took the top two places in the 200 free relay. Coddy Main, Sam Apa, Elliott Holbert and Joey Kotinsly clocked a 1:38.62.
“That’s where the morale of the meet shifted for us,” Mechanicsburg rookie coach Adam Weber said.
“I think that would have been the high water mark if we would have been able to hold on.”
Weber, however, was able to enjoy a nice win from his Wildcat girls (2-1, 2-0) thanks to wins from Lizzie Cobb in the 200 IM, Maddie Butz in the 50 free, Cassie Burgard in the 100 fly, Rachel Calcara in the 500 free and Paige Henry in the 100 back.
“It was kind of a heart-stopper all the way to the end,” Weber said.
“We got a lot of strong points, especially with one of our good freshmen (Hayley Crownover) out with an illness. We were scrambling to find the right lineup.”
Steff Maurer led the LD girls (1-1, 1-1) with wins in the 200 free and 100 free, while Janelle Laudermilch finished first in the 100 breast.