WILKES-BARRE — Tunkhannock’s gamble paid off.
The Tigers decided to go with a last-minute relay lineup switch. With the district title bound to be a deadlock between Tunkhannock and Dallas, coach Tim Mislevy substituted Jason Linden for Matt Miller in the 200 free relay and used Miller in the 400 free relay.
The musical chairs act gave Tunkhannock its first District 2 Class 2A boys swimming championship since 2007-08 Saturday at the Wyoming Valley CYC in Wilkes-Barre. With 211 points, Tunkhannock ended Dallas’ streak of four-straight district championships with a five-point advantage over the Mountaineers.
“I’m speechless, really,” Mislevy said. “We came into the year as a goal qualifying as many kids to states as we could. The other goal was to win a district title. Obviously enough, we were able to do that.”
All boys district champions and the top two girls of each race automatically qualify for the PIAA Championships on March 12-15 in Lewisburg.
Fortunately, for Mislevy, the move gave him enough points not to have the final 400 free relay be a head-to-head battle for the district title. Tunkhannock’s team of Mitch Fowler, Jacob Skoronski, Joe Moffitt and Miller just needed to finish within one spot of Dallas. The Tigers outraced the Dallas team of Ezra Moore, Jared Krawetz, Porter Luksic and Patrick Gelso by finishing in a time of 3:25.04 — 3.37 seconds ahead of the Mountaineers.
“We have three seniors (Linden, Moffitt, Miller) that really stepped up this year and become leaders,” Mislevy said. “Those guys worked really hard and the rest of the team followed them. It was all them. They did everything we asked, and I’m happy for that.”
Tunkhannock came into the weekend at a 34-point deficit after diving. Dallas owned an eight-point lead after the 500 free that was erased when the Tigers outscored the Mountaineers 16-1 in the 100 back. Linden and Fowler finished sixth and seventh to give the Tigers a swing in points.
“We don’t have divers,” Mislevy said. “I was just hoping to cut that in half coming out of the first day. So we were down by six or eight yesterday and I was thrilled.
“(The switch) paid off big. I’m not sure we would have come in second without Miller there.”
On the girls side, Abington Heights won by a comfortable margin over Scranton Prep. Holy Redeeemer, pegged sixth in the psych sheet rankings, leapfrogged Valley View, Dallas and Tunkhannock to finish third with 165 points. The Royals benefited from Emily Easton’s fifth-place 200 free finish Friday out of the second heat.
The Royals’ ascent was highlighted by each of senior Rachel Finnegan’s two races. Finnegan had the most surprising swim of the weekend when she won the 100 back in a time of 59.41 seconds.
Finnegan was seated fourth behind many of the fastest District 2 swimmers. She outraced Pittston Area’s Mia Nardone, Holy Cross’ Megan Carey and Tunkhannock’s Morgan Manglaviti by more than 2.5 seconds in spite of being a two-second underdog.
“I was not expecting this at all,” Finnegan said. “I felt good but wasn’t certainly wasn’t thinking that I’d come out on top. I’ve been swimming with Mia and Megan during my whole career. I guess backstroke is just my stroke this year.”
Manglaviti will join Finnegan as an PIAA automatic qualifier. Manglaviti took second with a 1:01.98 for her second qualifying swim of the weekend.
Earlier in the day, Finnegan completed her first upset in the 100 free. Seeded third, Finnegan finished ahead of Valley View’s Clare Sebastianelli for a 55.21-second silver medal.
“Honestly, it was nice,” Finnegan said. “I was able to just relax being seeded third and not being looked at to win.”
The Crestwood boys racked up their fourth and fifth district championships, for the most in the district.
Josh Grzech took his second gold for the weekend in the 100 free. Grzech finished in 48.14 seconds, 57-hundreths of a second ahead of Tunkhannock’s Matt Miller. Fellow Comet senior Chris Lukasewski (49.14) followed in third place.
“I’m still trying to catch my breath,” Grzech said. “Chris and Matt Miller gave me a run for my money. Chris and I were joking when the psych sheets came out. Whoever got it in districts would get the other in states.”
Josh’s twin brother Joe Grzech also nabbed his second district championship of the weekend in the 100 back. Joe jumped out to a big start and left a pair of Scranton Prep swimmers in his wake during the final 50 yards to finish at 54.74 seconds.
Joe credits another swimmer, Wyoming Valley West’s Eddie Zawatski, for improving his time from last year’s district win.
“I’ve been practicing that start all season with Wyoming Valley West’s Eddie Zawatski. He pushed me hard in practice. He’s an awesome kid; it usually took me everything just to keep up with him.”
State qualifiers will be announced on the PIAA website today.