There’s a youth movement around the pool at South Western this season, and junior Alex Yokem said he feels the added excitement on a daily basis.
And at the YAIAA championships Thursday and Friday at Central York, Yokem said he reached the medal stand twice because of it.
“It’s more lively. There’s a lot more people and it’s really upbeat,” he said. “It’s good I got the two (individual) medals, but honestly, they are the ones that deserve the credit.”
Yokem earned a trio of silver medals: two individual events and a relay. He went 22.37 in the 50-yard freestyle and 49.66 in the 100 free, which was only .07 off the gold-medal swim of his friend Alex Pecher of New Oxford.
Still, Yokem said he was most pleased after combining with youngsters John Gill, Ben Shoul and Todd Jones in the 200 free relay that placed second.
According to coach Ray Evelan, the foursome’s time of 1:36.23 was the third-fastest time in the event in Mustangs’ history.
“It was so awesome,” Yokem said. “It couldn’t have gone any better.”
South Western’s resurgence is quite pleasing to Evelan, who said 30 of the program's 35 swimmers are freshmen and sophomores. That number includes sophomores Gill and Shoul, and Jones, a freshman swimming for the first time. Shoul added a sixth-place medal in the 50.
“We have 22 kids new to swimming, and they have improved so much,” Evelan said.
While Yokem said he's thrilled to qualify for the District 3 Class AAA championships, he hopes the momentum from the YAIAA meet will take him even further.
“I knew I still had my shot at (districts),” he said. “I wasn’t worried about districts this year. It’s really states that I am looking forward to. That’s where I want to go.”
The Mustangs weren’t the only area team that excelled at the league championships. In fact, when Pecher won the 100 free, he became the first New Oxford male swimmer to win a YAIAA gold medal.
The junior also took home sixth-place hardware in the 100 backstroke and was on the Colonials’ fourth-place 200 medley relay squad. Teammate Kyle DuPree was fourth in the 200 individual medley and sixth in the 100 breaststroke.
In its second YAIAA title meet, Gettysburg earned several medals. Nico DeAngelo II tied for fifth in the 100 free, and the Warriors 200 free relay was fifth. Chandler Desotelle, Jared Herr and Logan Hyde placed fourth, fifth and seventh, respectively, in the 200 free. Herr also won bronze in the 500, where Hyde finished sixth. The school’s 400 free relay was seventh.
The Spring Grove boys’ 200 medley relay was fifth, the Rockets 200 free relay took sixth and the 400 free relay was eighth. Josiah Kline was eighth in the 100 butterfly and Grae Elliot took seventh in the 500 free.
On the girls’ side, Spring Grove’s medley relay placed sixth, while the 400 free relay took seventh. Rockets junior Abigayle Keating scored a bronze medal in the 500 free and was fifth in the 200 free. Her teammate Mackenzie Miller took seventh in the 100 fly, and eighth in the backstroke.
Rachel Groden of New Oxford earned a bronze medal in Wednesday’s diving competition. The rare double-duty athlete was also on the Colonials’ 200 free relay team that placed fifth, along with teammate Morgan Richter, who finished eighth in the breaststroke.
Gettysburg got a pair of medals from Taylor Howery: seventh in the 100 back and eighth in the 100 fly.