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Jones becomes Biglerville's first state swimming qualifier in a decade

MECHANICSBURG >> Biglerville senior Robert Jones struck the pool wall with his final breaststroke, grabbed hold to the top of the wall and looked up at the scoreboard.

He pumped his fist, more in relief than exhilaration, then shook his head.

It wasn't the time he wanted to see — 1:01.09 was a personal best but short of his goal — but the No. 2 shining alongside his time in the place column meant he became the first Canner to qualify for the PIAA state championships since Dan Martin in 2005. A Biglerville swimmer making states is a rarity since the school doesn't sponsor a team,

"I wanted to go under a minute," Jones said. "But I'm glad I (qualified automatically) for states. I'm happy, but disappointed."

Even though Jones is Biglerville's only swimmer, there were plenty of people cheering him on and stopping him to congratulate him on his accomplishment at Saturday's District 3 championships. Jones swims with the Gettysburg Sharks program throughout the year with many swimmers form Gettysburg High School, so the Warriors treated him like a teammate when it was his turn in the pool.

"Regardless of what school they went to, they were all here together as a team and having fun together as a team," said Gettysburg assistant coach Kevin Hardy, who coaches the Sharks.

Jones' swim continues a journey that started just two years ago, when his parents convinced him to start swimming competitively since he enjoyed swimming in their backyard pool so much. He said he's been in the pool almost every day since, taking up swimming as a sport, and that he's been able to make quick strides by lifting weights on the weekends and watching technique videos online.

"Robert is a beast. I wish I could have the work ethic he has," Gettysburg sophomore Logan Hyde said. "I can kind of match him in the pool, but he takes it to a whole other level when he's out of the pool working. He's going to the gym lifting and everything, doing all this work, and he deserves what he got today."

Jones said he hopes to medal and finally break through the one-minute barrier at the state meet.

"The man's got raw talent that's gonna be a college coach's dream," Hardy said. "He really doesn't come to us with any bad habits and he's still learning the sport."

HYDE BREAKS SCHOOL RECORD, LIKELY HEADED TO STATES >> Logan Hyde dropped nearly 8 seconds off his seed time in the 500 freestyle, breaking the Gettysburg school record by .95 seconds with a 4:54.90. The swim earned him a fourth-place medal, and he and Hardy both feel confident that it will be fast enough to earn an at-large spot for the state championships.

"It was a pretty big deal," Hyde said. "All season I've had this goal in mind that I really wanted to get this record."

In the same event, Hyde's teammate Jared Herr swam a 5:09.34, a drop of nearly seven seconds, to earn a fifth-place medal.

Warriors senior Derek Ondrizek also medaled and set a school record, swimming a 48.95 in the 100 freestyle to take seventh place.

On the girls side, sophomore Taylor Howery swam a 1:03.58 to earn an eighth-place medal in the 100 backstroke.

The Warriors also earned medals in both 400 freestyle relays, as the girls and boys each took sixth in that event.

"All the athletes swam their very best," Hardy said. "Everyone but one swam personal bests. I commend them all for the effort they put in. They worked really hard to be here and it paid off."

DELONE CATHOLIC'S DUDENHOEFFER COMES UP SHORT >> Based on the heat sheet, Delone Catholic sophomore Caroline Dudenhoeffer seemed to have a shot at earning a trip to states in the 100 breastroke.

She came into the meet with the fourth-fastest seed time, but ended up leaving without a medal.

A slow start left Dudenhoeffer playing catch-up all race, and she finished with a 1:11.26, .03 seconds slower than her seed, to end up in ninth place.