LEWISBURG >> When the York Suburban boys' 400 free relay team gathered before their final swim of the season at Thursday's PIAA Class AA swimming championships, three of them looked to the relay's lone senior Diego Herrera to lead them in a prayer of inspiration.
Even if said prayer was in Spanish.
"They had no idea what I was saying. But it was beautiful," Herrera said after the race.
The Trojans swim was a thing of beauty as well. Aidan Fryar led off, followed by Matt Spinello, Herrera and Karl Schmittle as the foursome posted a time of 3:17.44 to earn a bronze medal.
Not bad for a relay team with two new members in Fryar and Schmittle.
"We felt like making Diego's last race memorable. It was something he deserved," Schmittle said.
"We could tell for a while this meant a lot to him. We wanted to send him home with another medal," added Spinello.
The happy-go-lucky Herrera was moved to tears.
"I can't believe what these guys were willing to do for me," he said. "I can't find more talented and dedicated teammates. Right now, this is the most special thing to happen in my life."
The relay is a unique group composed of a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior.
Schmittle, a sophomore, enjoyed the experience on the deck. Last year, he was in the crowd watching the squad and his sisters.
"It's a lot better. You got to see more," he said. "I felt inspired by each one of my teammates."
The junior Spinello also swam in the 100 freestyle consolations and scored an 11th-place finish in 48.34. Only a freshman, Fryar placed 30th in the 100 free preliminaries. (50.45).
In the 400 free relay, Spinello hit the water and set the stage for Herrera.
"The last race at states is always exciting," Spinello said. "You want to go home on a good note."
With his time of 49.18, Derek Ondrizek of Gettysburg tied for 24th in the 100 free. Warriors teammate Logan Hyde was 23rd in the 500 free (5:00.74). Dover's Casey Marshall finished his junior season 21st in the 100 backstroke (56.14).
The West York duo of Ben Spangler (1:04.63) and Greg Landis (1:06.66) were 27th and 30th, respectively, in the 100 breaststroke.
A LONG WAY IN A SHORT TIME >> Although his school doesn't offer swimming, Biglerville's Robert Jones capped his high school career at Bucknell on Thursday with his 20th-place finish in the 100 breaststroke.
While it's true that Jones would have preferred ending with an evening medal or consolation swim, it's safe to say the senior came a long way in a short time, considering he didn't even start swimming competitively until the summer before his sophomore year.
"I am happy I got here, but not happy with my times," he said.
Jones acknowledged how much work it took to get to the states, including much of the time he practiced with the Gettysburg swim team.
"He worked 100 percent, every practice," said Gettysburg coach Amanda Turner, who added that Jones was saddled with a bad cold last week. "He was sick as a dog."
AROUND THE STATE >> Trinity diving star Bradley Buchter broke his own record in the boys' diving competition on Thursday with his score of 642.50 points. Buchter finished nearly 180 points ahead of Denny Bonner of Salisbury.
Corry's Brent Benedict was the AA boys' Swimmer of the Meet. After setting the PIAA 100 butterfly record twice on Wednesday, the senior broke the 100 backstroke mark during preliminaries on Thursday. He earned gold with a time of 48.74.
Reach Steve Navaroli at 771-2060.