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West York's Courtney Harnish has been named the top swimming recruit in the nation by an online site. The 17-year-old explains what she's looking for in a college. Jim Seip, GameTimePA

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There is just something about the 500-yard freestyle that gets West York’s Courtney Harnish going. It happened once again during Friday’s second night of the YAIAA swimming championships.

The senior hit the water fast, swam a quick pace, and finished with speed. Her winning time of 4:45.74, broke the Central York pool record, the YAIAA championship meet mark, and her own league record she set three years ago.

“It’s my baby,” Harnish said of the 500. “I love going out there and seeing what I can do in the 500. It’s probably my favorite and I’d have to say that is why I go after it.”

Harnish, who set a trio of records in Thursday’s 100 butterfly, has a simple strategy when she swims the 500.

“I think the 500, you need to stay relaxed,” she said. “It’s not a sprint and you can’t go out and muscle through it. That’s what I always try to do see how relaxed I can be.”

And Harnish wasn’t the only Bulldog to take home gold on Friday. Teammate Claudia Keller won the 100 backstroke with a 1:00.60.

“Ever since I started swimming that’s the stroke I have been the best at,” Keller said. “I have been really working on my technique and I think that helped me in this race. Swim the first 50, survive the next 50. I think my pull is better and my kick has been better. I need to work on my walls a little bit.”

The two finished the meet by combining with Maddi Stoner and Meghan French to win the 400 free relay, missing out on setting another record by only .22 with their time of 3:36.62.

“We encourage each other and we are so close, which helps so much,” Keller said. “We just do our best and no matter what happens, that’s what I love about our team. We were screaming so loud for each other.”

Dallastown’s dynamic duo rode again

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Seeded first in their events, Jacob Stoner and Logan Brockway had expectations, especially after winning both of their individual events on Thursday.

One night after taking the 100 butterfly, Stoner opened Friday’s boys’ meet with his second gold, in the 100 freestyle after swimming a 47.92.

Later, Brockway — who notched the 200 individual medley on Thursday — took the honors in the 100 backstroke (54.63).

The two combined with Seth Schuler and William Wise to close out the competition with a gold medal in the 400 free relay in 3:17.42.

“I know we were looking forward to the relays both nights,” Brockway said. “At districts and states we will just be looking to go faster.”

Like Brockway, Stoner said he enjoyed the relay gold more than his individual ones.

“All of the guys on it exceeded expectations,” Stoner said. “Will’s 49 (second split) was the highlight of the meet for because he was so excited about it."

Wildcats youngsters lead the way

Dallastown freshmen Morgan Merrifield and Araby Marston found their first YAIAA to be a great experience — and successful.

While they credited their teammates and coaches on the pool deck, both were terrific in their own right in the water. Merrifield started the second night of competition by swimming a 53.77 to win the 100 freestyle.

“I just wanted to have fun. If you have fun, you are going to swim fast,” Merrifield said. “I was shocked I won. I told my friend I’ll swim a 54. I was incredibly pleased with that time.”

Near the end of the girls’ meet, Marston had a sizeable time drop and took home gold in the 100 breaststroke with her time of 1:08.95.

“I think having my team here really motivated me. Evening riding the bus here, and at school, there was this energy,” she said. “I didn’t expect it, but obviously it was possible.”

Stellar meet for other rookies

A pair of freshmen stood out in the boys’ meet as well, including Central’s Lucas Tate. On Friday, Tate won his first YAIAA title with his 100 breaststroke time 1:03.04 for a narrow victory in one of the closest races of the championships.

“By the first 75, I realized I was behind. I had to go all out,” Tate said. “I really didn’t try to think of it too much. I just wanted to go out and swim my best.”

Another frosh, Susquehannock’s Logan McFadden, raised eyebrows with his 4:42.01 that won the 500 freestyle. He hit the water hard and never trailed in the distance race.

Warriors coach Brian Wingert said he believed McFadden is the first boy from the school to win YAIAA gold since two-time state champion Zach Phillips more than a decade ago.

“He has all the school records,” McFadden said of equaling Phillips. “When I stood up on the podium it was really cool to see all the hard work pay off.”

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