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Ballek earns state medal

Salisbury swimming was represented by a pair of sophomore swimmers at the PIAA Swimming and Diving championships at Bucknell University over the weekend and both came away with personal accomplishments.

The duo – Phoebe Ballek and Olivia Amorim – have been friends for a number of years. Ballek and Amorim both set personal best times with Ballek also coming home with a medal for her performance in the 500-yard freestyle.

At districts earlier this month, Ballek qualified for states in both the 200 and 500-yard freestyle events by virtue of taking gold in both events at districts. Coming into states, Ballek was seeded 20th in the 500 and felt she could improve on her time of 5:22.82 that she swam at districts, since her personal best time was five seconds lower than what she had accomplished to win gold.

In the preliminary round on Saturday, Ballek cut nearly seven seconds off of her time from districts and moved all the way up to the number-seven seed. She went into finals with a new personal best time of 5:15.85.

In the finals, Ballek was even better as she shaved another two seconds from her time in the prelims and pushed her personal best down even further as she finished in 5:13.77 and held onto seventh at states, improving on her 13th-place finish a year ago.

“Obviously, I wanted to live up to last year, but I was not expecting a medal, and this is better than anything I expected,” said Ballek, who placed 11th in the 500 freestyle at last year’s state meet. “I dropped from my seed time at districts, but my best time ever was a 5:17 and I crushed that when I went under that by four seconds.”

A day earlier, Ballek and Amorim were both competing in the 200-yard freestyle but in different preliminary heats. When all of the times were entered, Ballek was in 12th and Amorim in 15th heading into the finals, which meant the close friends would be swimming close to each other in the finals with just four lanes separating them.

When all was said and done they were back-to-back in the finals with Ballek coming in 13th and Amorim finishing 14th overall.

“We’ve been competing with each other for about five years now and it’s always fun to race someone you’re friends with,” said Amorim. Ballek agreed and quickly added that “it’s better when we’re right next to each other.”

“I finally got under the 1:59 mark,” said Amorim, who finished with a 1:58.68 in the consolation round. As she spoke, Ballek was cheering her friend’s accomplishment.

The second event that Amorim swam was the 100-yard butterfly where she finished the preliminary round with a time of 1:02.03 which fell short of being fast enough to qualify for the finals in the event.

“This was phenomenal,” said Salisbury coach Mackenzie Sikora. “Both of our girls dropped time and you can’t ask for anything more as a coach. It’s amazing having a sophomore up on the podium for states with it only being her second time coming in. She cleaned up the things she needed to and she got it done and cut a lot of time on her swims.”

Even with just two swimmers competing, Ballek and Amorim picked up a total of 19 points for their team which placed Salisbury 32nd in the team standings. Mt. Pleasant High School won the girls’ team competition with a score of 164.

PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Salisbury sophomore Phobe Ballek finished seventh in the 500-yard freestyle at last week's state championship meet.
PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Salisbury sophomore Phoebe Ballek finished seventh in the 500-yard freestyle at last week's state championship meet.
PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Salisbury sophomore Olivia Amorim competed in two events at last week's state championship meet, including a 14th-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle.