LEWISBURG — After a trying first day for the Clearfield girls swimming team at the PIAA Class AA Championships on Wednesday, the Lady Bison rebounded with a solid performance in Thursday morning’s preliminary session.
Clearfield didn’t advance in any of its three events, but the Lady Bison did shake off the the disqualification they suffered in the finals of Wednesday’s 200 free relay.
Nowhere did that shine through better than in the 400 free relay where the exact same team of Makeeli Redden, Karli Bietz, Raegan Mikesell and Abby LaBorde put together one of their best swims of the season.
The girls swam a 3:43.60 to place 18th, which is where they were seeded coming into the meet. Clearfield did a 3:42.40 at the District 9 meet, but head coach Jackie Morrison thought her 400 performed admirably, considering they were less then 13 hours removed from the heartbreak of the DQ.
“They showed a lot of character after something that devastating,” Clearfield head coach Jackie Morrison said. “After all the work they put in throughout the season, for something like that to happen, which was within their control, is something that is very difficult to swallow.
“I told them, ‘you’re getting tested. People are going to stand back and see what kind of resolve you have. What kind of moxie you have. What kind of character you have.’ I think they showed up today, and I’m proud of them. They held their heads high and went out and went after it.”
The girls were extremely consistent throughout the swim. Redden started out with a 55.48, Bietz followed with a 56.18, Mikesell hit a time of 55.97 and LaBorde finished it off with a 56.00.
“We were definitely a little safer on our starts,” Morrison said. “The key thing was the effort. Nobody tanked. Nobody didn’t give their best effort. At 8 o’clock this morning I told them I want you to perform your very best right now and I think they were just a smidge off. But I think that is something they can live with. They can walk away very proud of what they accomplished.”
The girls can also be proud of how they responded to adversity.
“It was devastating to them. It was devastating for the boys. It was devastating to the coaches,” Morrison said. “But what’s important, it’s about how they picked themselves up after something like that. It’s a life lesson. You don’t always have everything go your way. You have to be able to adapt, adjust and move on.”
Earlier in the day, Bietz nearly broke the Lady Bison team record in the 500 free with a time of 5:21.78.
Her time moved her up from her 29th seed to placing 21st.
“She had a great swim,” Morrison said. “One turn cost her. There was only one turn she really missed and that probably cost her the team record. But now she knows she can do it. It’s OK.
“But she’s tough. She’s just a good, tough kid. And she will always give her your best.”
And the time will certainly be a building block for the Lady Bison sophomore.
“She said, ‘I want to start my season in the (6:) 20s,’ and that’s exactly right,” Morrison said. “So it motivated her. There is something she can take away from the end of the season that is the tip-off to the beginning of the next season.”
Redden also had an individual swim, beginning the day in the first heat of the first event — the 100 free.
She was just a little slower than her seed time of 54:35. swimming a 55.12 to finish in 28th spot.
“After a long day, she had to come back first thing in the morning and ready, set, go, give me your best time.” Morrison said. “To be the first race out at 8 o’clock in the morning and be mentally and physically tough, I thought she did outstanding.”
It was the last race of Redden and LaBorde’s high school swimming careers.
“Makeeli had a great career,” Morrison said. “Her body of work is outstanding. She is pretty decorated and has been a big part of past and current success.
“And same with Abby. We’ve mentioned before that she was not even a competitive swimmer until her ninth grade year and she literally worked her way up through the training lanes to walking away with a state medal (in 2018) and having great performances like she did.
“We’re going to miss them both.”
NOTES: Shamokin’s Abby Doss was named girls swimmer of the meet after winning the 500 free (her third title in the event) on Thursday and the 200 IM (her second) on Wednesday ... Villa Maria won the team title with 104 points, besting runner-up Scranton Prep by 14 points. Schuylkill Valley was third with 79.