AP NEWS

Dallas Girls Ready For States

March 13, 2019
Dallas Girls Ready For States

DALLAS — Hannah Thomas regularly attended the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships. Over the past few years, Thomas sat in the stands cheering on her teammates, friends and family representing the Dallas Mountaineers.

But this year will be different. For Thomas’ senior year at Dallas, she’ll be the one the crowd cheers on. For the first time, this year Thomas became a state qualifier.

“I’m very excited. I’m a senior and this is my first year going to states,” Thomas said. “I was very excited. I’m going in the 200 medley relay, I’m swimming the (butterfly) leg. I’ve been on this relay for the past four years. We’ve gotten medals at districts and it’s really exciting now to go to states for the first time.

“I’ve been swimming for eight years and my final race is at states, one of my most fun events, one of my most important events will be at states.”

Thomas has always been there to support her team, always hoping for the opportunity to grace the Bucknell University pool. She’ll get her chance when the state championships begin today.

“I’ve gone and watched the past three years to support my team. My sister went last year as a freshman. I went to go support her. It’s so much fun. The pool is beautiful, it’s amazing,” Thomas said. “I wanted to swim in the pretty pool I’ve been watching for the past three years. Now that I get to go swim in it myself, it’s going to be great.”

Thomas is joined on the 200 medley relay by Emma Thomas, Sydney Bittner and Gina Kerrick. The group finished fourth at the District 2 championships with a time good enough compared to those at each other district to qualify for states.

“It ended up being the perfect relay,” Thomas said. “The people that were on it, we were very close and connected and in sync. We worked on it for the past month. We all worked hard and it ended up working out.

There was a bit of anxiousness as the group waited to see if their time would get them in.

“We were so nervous,” Thomas said. “We were hoping to get a certain time, then we were waiting for out districts to come out. We were like, ‘Oh my God, is this time going to get us in?’ My dad was trying to figure out all the times. Then we finally saw we were getting in.

“Me and my (Bittner), we FaceTimed each other and we were so excited. We we’re like, ‘We’re finally going to states,’ because it’s both of our first times.”

While Thomas is a first-time qualifier, there are several state veterans on the Dallas team.

“I’m really excited because I know our team did really well last year,” said Melissa Leonard. “I know we did lose some people but I’m still excited because we are bringing a lot of people this year. Our medley relay made it and i feel like it’s going to be more exciting because we will have more people there. I don’t think many of us are nervous. Maybe once we get there we might be a little nervous, but right now we’re all very excited.”

Last year, Leonard earned a medal by finishing sixth in the 500 freestyle. She also finished ninth in the 200 freestyle. She again qualified for both events this year, and said she gets more drive from the medal is almost got as opposed to the one she did get.

“In my prelims race for that, the 200 free, I kind of didn’t have a good prelims so I didn’t make it to finals,” she said. “Just being the top seed in the consolation finals, I pushed myself and it gave me more drive. In the 500, i knew i was expected to get a medal, I still pushed myself, but it gave me more drive in the 200 than the 500.

“I’m just pushing myself in practice more. I know I am capable of getting that spot. My time would’ve gotten me a medal, so I know that I am capable of it. So I just need to push myself a little harder.”

Dallas girls alst qualified two more relays, the 200 and 400 freestyles, and Emma Thomas is an individual qualifier in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle.

Jaelyn Shaver, a two-time District 2 diving champion, is going back to states in hopes of improving on her 12th-place finish last year.

“I’m really excited, but I’m also a little bit sad because it’s my senior year,” Shaver said. “It will be ending soon. I love diving so I sort of don’t want it to stop.”

Shaver is seeded sixth for this year’s competition, and she’s hoping to medal so she can “go out with a bang.”

She’s said one big difference this time around is her relationship with her teammates.

“I’m better friends with the girls this year I’d say than I was last year, so I’m kind of more excited to go down because I’m going down with some of my best friends,” Shaver said. “When I found out they were coming down, it definitely eased my nerves a little bit knowing they’d be down with me.