WILKES-BARRE — Tunkhannock’s Ben Spencer knew it was going to be close. Even before he lifted his head to see his time, he could feel he was on target.
Spencer’s instincts were spot on. The Tunkhannock senior broke a 23-year old district record in the 200 IM Friday at the District 2 Class 2A Swimming Championships at the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center. Spencer clocked in at 1:58.09, breaking former Bishop Hoban star Mark Bellow’s 1990 record of 1:58.94.
“I knew I could do it,” Spencer said. “I could feel when I was in the water that I was on the right pace. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”
Both 200 IM records fell as Scranton Prep’s Mia Nonnenberg broke her own record with a 2:03.24 time that was 2.6 seconds faster than her prior district record.
The Holy Redeemer girls and Dallas boys lead the team standings after the first day of competition. The Royals own a 33-point lead over Scranton Prep. The Mountaineers have a 35-point lead over the Cavaliers. Swimming resumes at noon today.
The Mountaineer men were led by individual wins for Marcus Wagner and Brian Stepniak, as well as a first in the 200 free relay. Wagner and Stepniak teamed up with Patrick Gelso and Jack Matusiak for a 1:31.15 time in the 200 free relay.
“I think it’s surprising that they did well,” Dallas coach Romayne Mosier said. “I was happy with their times, that kind of surprise. They work hard, and it’s paying off.”
Wagner edged out an upstart performance from Crestwood’s Joe Grzech in the 200 free, touching the wall at 1:47.13. It marks Wagner’s third career district championship.
“I was a little bit nervous (before the meet),” Wagner said. “I was just trying to swim on my own and not worry about any other swimmers.”
His teammate Stepniak claimed his seventh career district championship, posting a time of 21.88 seconds in the 50 free. Stepniak edged out Crestwood’s Chris Lukasewski by four-tenths of a second.
“It’s a really short race so everything is important,” Stepniak said. “At the start, you have to everything down.”
Crestwood had a competitive day all around on the boys side. Josh Grzech picked up his first career district gold with a victory and won handily in 53.02 seconds.
“It feels great,” Josh Grzech said. “I came close last year and the year before so I’m thrilled with the result. It wasn’t exactly the time I was hoping for. But it’s my fastest time ever and it’s my first district championship.”
On the girls side, Holy Redeemer’s quartet of Bethany Chmil, Julie Ann Mahle, Lucy Reilly and Rachel Finnegan paved the way with a pair of wins in the 200 medley and 200 free relays. The group outpaced Scranton Prep by six-hundreths of a second in the 200 medley, winning in a time of 1:52.07.
The 200 free relay was much less dramatic as they swam to a 1:41.69 mark and won by nearly two seconds over Abington Heights.
“Lucy Reilly did an incredible job in the relays,” Holy Redeemer coach Mara Pawlenok said. “It took a lot of bravery to swim that hard.”
Pawlenok said the team benefited greatly off the efforts of its full lineup. Despite not taking any individual races, the Royals did not relinquish their lead throughout the first session. Finnegan and Mahle each placed second in the 200 free and 200 IM, respectively. Bethany Chmil dropped nearly seven seconds off her seed time in the 200 IM. Alexis Davison jumped from 23rd to eighth in the 50 free.
“Up and down in the pool, they are swimming really fast,” Pawlenok said. “These little ones can go ahead and pull it. I always said you never win a district meet on the fast kids. You win it on the next group.”
The rest of the field wasn’t without their share of big moments. Meyers’ Eilish Hoban’s 2:05.68 performance in the second heat of the 200 free enabled her to jump to fourth place on the medal stand.
Coughlin’s Carly Ray and Tunkhannock’s Morgan Manglaviti took third and fourth in a crowded 50 free field. Pittston Area’s Mia Nardone was upset by Scranton Prep’s Katie Voitik in the 100 butterfly, and Hanover Area’s Kim Pericci trailed in third place.
Voitik won the 200 free in addition to her 100 fly win. Holy Cross’ Megan Carey pulled off another upset to pick up her fourth district championship and her first in the 50 free.
“Honestly, in past years, I’ve gotten so nervous that I’ve taken the fun out of it,” she said. “So I tried to relax and enjoy it from here.”