LEWISBURG — The journey began for Luke Mikesell moments after winning a silver medal in the 200 free at the PIAA Championships last year.
It ended with a state-record time of 1:38.31 and a little revenge.
Mikesell set the new Pennsylvania standard in class 2A in the 200 free Wednesday at Kinney Natatorium in the final of the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships, beating last year’s champ Josiah Lauver of Bishop McDevitt by 0.20 seconds.
“After I got second last year, which is still really good, I wanted to come back this year and win,” Mikesell said. “I knew he was a returning senior and I just wanted to go after it and get it.”
“Could he have gone faster? I think so,” Clearfield head coach Jackie Morrison said. “But the finals are about getting to the wall first and not about goals because if you mismanage a race, you can be in trouble. And Josiah Lauver is no slouch. He was swimmer of the meet last year. I told Luke, he’s going to have something for you. Swim with him for a while and then we gotta go.’ If he would have gone out kind of looking at our goal time, we might have been in trouble there.”
Mikesell and Lauver stayed pretty much neck-and-neck through the first 100 before Mikesell inched out to a bit of a lead. Mikesell said he was having some technical difficulties during the race that might have kept it close.
“I was planning on staying with him and then going, but I kept missing my turns,” Mikesell said. “So it ended up a little closer than I wanted it to be.”
But he was able to turn on the jets over the final 50 to pull away for the win.
“I had nothing left to lose. It was the last lap. I thought I’m just going for it,” Mikesell said.
And the final burst likely got him the state record. The former record was held by Shady Side Academy’s Trevor Scheid, who set the PIAA record in 2008 with a 1:38.35.
Mikesell was also key in the 200 medley relay, helping the Bison to a third-place finish.
Isaac Swanson (back stroke), Noah Jordan (breast stroke), Mikesell (fly) and Elliot Thorp (freestyle) teamed to go 1:37.50 to take third and just miss out on setting a new team record.
“They were one-tenth off the team record,” Morrison said. “They definitely did their best season time. They came in at 1:37.9 and went down to 1:37.5. I was proud of that medley. I wasn’t sure if they were going to be able to do it. They did a really nice job, They managed the race, They managed the start.”
The team managed the race to perfection after getting a painful reminder from the Lady Bison 200 free relay team earlier in the day that a misstep could cost them. The girls were disqualified for a bad exchange on the relay and Morrison used that as a teaching moment for her boys.
“I believe there is a reason for things, and the girls hard lesson was something these guys needed to learn from,” she said. “That sent them a message to not mess with the relay. Make sure things are right. The girls sent them a tough reminder and the boys benefited from it.”
The boys were deliberate with their starts and exchanges and smooth throughout the different legs of the race. When Mikesell entered the pool on the third leg, Clearfield was in fifth, but within striking distance. Mikesell left the pool with the team battling for second after a sizzling 22.74 on the fly leg and Thorp brought it home with a 22.06 on the free.
“Elliot has elevated his races in the last month,” Morrison said. “He’s just full of confidence with all the things that happened with him the last month. He’s laser-focused on what we need from him and he has really matured as a swimmer. He’s someone we can count on.”
The foursome was fourth in preliminaries with a 1:38.04, which was just a little slower than their seed time of 137.90.
Clearfield’s 200 free relay team of Thorp, Justin Maines, Parker Marshall and Leif Hoffman closed out Day 1 with a solid performance in consolation finals, placing 13th with a time of 1:31.65, moving up two from the 15th spot they had coming in.
“I am so proud of that relay,” Morrison said. “When we first formed that relay, I thought, ‘OK, that has a shot to go to states.’ Never in my wildest dreams did I think that relay would end up 13th coming from what they were swimming a month ago. I am just as proud of them as I am of my medal winners. Honestly I am. I am so proud of them. I don’t even know what else to say.”
The splits in the final ranged from 22.79 to 23.03, showing how consistent the group is.
The 200 free relay sneaked into the consolation finals in 15th place with a time of 1:31.98, which was .38 seconds slower that its seed time (which was also 15th).
Thorp (23.08), Maines (23.23), Marshall (22.83) and Hoffman (22.84) were fairly consistent across the board with their legs in the preliminary heat as well.
“Three of those four kids have never been to a meet like this,” Morrison said. “Justin, Parker and Leif. Now Leif has been to some big meets, but never the state meet. Elliot led it off and was their leader and kind of guided it, but wow. To never have been here before and come back and swim like they did in the consol and score points for the team race is outstanding. I am giddy over what they just did.”
Also competing in an individual event was Hoffman, who swam the 200 IM in a time of 2:02.70, topping his seed time by .83 seconds to place 23rd, four spots better than his seed.
Clearfield is in sixth place in the team race with 61 points. Today, the Bison have both Hoffman and Mikesell going in the 500 free, Swanson in the 100 back, Thorp in the 100 free and Cody Shaw diving. They also will have a team in the 400 free relay.
Notes: Huntingdon’s Nick Buckley was first in the 50 free ... Marian Catholic’s Danny Berlitz won a state title in the 200 IM. Berlitz was second to Mikesell last year in the 500 free after winning it in 2017. The two will go head-to-head today. ... Cathedral Prep leads the team race with 142 points, followed by Lower Moreland (95), Belle Vernon (86), Bishop McDevitt (79) and Central Columbia (61).