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Soares gets late, great news

Swimmers across the commonwealth got good news recently when the PIAA decided to expand the field of swimmers competing for state medals this weekend at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg. Initially only gold medal winners from district meets were going to be competing but the new ruling admitted eight more swimmers in each event.

Thanks to the change two more Emmaus swimmers earned opportunities to swim at states.

On the boys’ side, senior Nick Soares will now compete in the 100-yard backstroke after placing second in the event at districts. Soares had qualified as part of the boys 200-medley relay team but did not initially qualify for a spot in an individual event.

For the girls, junior Lauren Sharp, who was already making the trip as the gold medal winner in the 200-yard individual medley, will now also compete in the 100-yard breaststroke as well.

After the District 11 championship, Emmaus coach Tim O’Connor lamented the fact that there would be some good swimmers left behind because of the COVID protocols that had limited the field to just eight swimmers in each event.

“It’s a shame because there are a lot of kids who deserved a chance to go to states, especially after everything that they had to work through this year,” said O’Connor. “It’s especially difficult for seniors who maybe just missed winning gold and won’t have the chance to swim against the best in the state.”

The Emmaus boys already had a full contingent of swimmers heading for Cumberland Valley High School after they captured their 14th straight District 11 team championship recently.

In relays, Emmaus had all three boys relay teams – 200-medley, 200-freestyle and 400 freestyle - win gold medals. The 200-medley and 200-freestyle teams have the best shot at medals, with the medley team seeded second behind just Upper Saint Clair High School and the 200-freestyle team seeded third behind top-seed North Penn and second-seed Upper Saint Clair.

The 400-freestyle team comes in as the number-nine seed. Emmaus did not have any girls relay teams qualify for states.

In the boys’ competition, Luke Rautzhan comes in looking for a big day as he is seeded fourth in the 50 freestyle and sixth in the 100 freestyle. Rautzhan was named the top swimmer at the District 11 meet, winning the Dennis A. McGinley Award.

Michael Iacobelli will also compete in two events, qualifying ninth for the 200-IM and 13th in the 100-breaststroke. Senior Connor Shriver is also a 13-seed in the 200-freestyle event.

On the girls’ side of the competition, Sharp is now set up for a rematch with Parkland’s Madison Tewksbury in the 100 breaststroke. The two close friends finished one-two in the event at districts and will have an eye on each other at states. Chloe Vlaeminck will also represent Emmaus in states, swimming in the 100-butterfly.

“I think District 11 is going to be well represented at states,” said O’Connor even before the extra swimmers were added. “We have a lot of strong competitors and it’s going to be interesting to see what the kids from around the Lehigh Valley are able to do against the best in the state.

“I like the chances for some local swimmers to win gold and that includes our kids who are going to be going out there.”

PRESS PHOTO BY COLIN SHERIDAN Because the PIAA opened eight more entries per event to the state championship meet, Emmaus Nick Soares (near) will compete in the 100-yard backstroke as the District 11 runner-up. Teammate Connor Shriver (far) missed out on states by one place.
PRESS PHOTO BY COLIN SHERIDAN Lauren Sharp was already qualified for states in one individual event. With a change in the number of entries allowed this year, she will now compete in two individual events at Saturday's state championships.