Pates’ Al Bell wins gold
On the second and final day of the District XI Class 3A Swimming Championships, Freedom sophomore Al Bell won the gold medal in the 500 free with a time of 4:45.94.
“That was the goal,” Bell smiled.
Bell finished the event more than two seconds ahead of Parkland’s Hyunbin Kim and Southern Lehigh’s Raahi Klar-Chaudhuri who tied for second place in 4:48.00.
“I was a little nervous, but I tried not to let it get to me. I was just excited, especially to race some people I know,” said Bell. “The whole race was really close. I tried to keep my own pace, and if people were ahead of me, they were pushing me. It was just a lot of excitement, and it’s my first time ever.”
Liberty sophomore Jake Evert won a silver medal in the 100 free with a time of 46.57, just .43 seconds behind gold medalist Michael Bauer from Northampton.
The very last event of the district meet, the 400 free relay, was won by Liberty swimmers Ben Stuckey, Chase Ledger, Evert, and Robert Negron with a time of 3:10.33.
Stuckey, a senior, led off.
“I swim distance most of the time, so I had to change some things,” Stuckey said. “This is my first time getting a medal. I really wanted this, and being on a team with people I really care about, it’s pretty surreal. I never got a medal of my own, so it’s a great feeling.”
Ledger explained that the Hurricanes’ relay strategy was very mapped out.
“The medal feels a little heavy,” Ledger laughed. “It’s a reflection of all the hard work that goes into the season. I knew if I could make some gains, Jake and Robert could bring it home.”
Negron swam anchor and touched the wall .35 seconds ahead of Emmaus’s anchor, sending the whole Liberty swim team into wild celebration.
“It was fantastic. We put everything we had into that. It was awesome to see,” Ledger said.
In team scores, Liberty’s boys placed third, Parkland placed second, and Emmaus placed first.
“I’m just really proud of my kids, and I have the greatest coaches in the Lehigh Valley, Jeff Matyus, Evan Kocon, Jeff Zettlemoyer, all of them. We collaborate all the time,” said Liberty coach Reik Foust.
Foust also noted that one of the Hurricane freshman boys, Trevor Lenig, who competed in the 100 backstroke, qualified for districts this year.
“The last two weeks have been great because the older kids were good with the younger kids, and it’s cool to have them teach you what to do, like bleaching our hair,” Lenig said. “All the captains did a great job and made us feel welcome, and if we did something wrong, they would teach us how to fix it.”
Bell, Stuckey, Ledger, Evert, and Negron will compete at the PIAA State Swimming Championships March 17-18 at Bucknell University.