Trojans’ C.J. Pong collects 2nd PIAA swimming medal

LEWISBURG — Thursday was a surreal day in the world of sports, thanks to the affects of coronavirus.

Pong at PIAA

C.J. Pong

But the day will still hold a pretty good memory for Chambersburg senior swimmer C.J. Pong.

At the PIAA Swimming Championships at Bucknell University, Pong earned a fifth-place medal in the Class 3A 100 backstroke, even though the finals were not held.

The boys prelims were held first thing in the morning and Pong turned in the fifth-fastest time, 50.10. That was good enough to place him in the evening’s finals.

However, later in the morning, PIAA made an announcement that it was suspending the basketball and swimming championships because of the coronavirus situation. That meant that the Class 2A sessions on Friday and Saturday, in which Shippensburg has four girls entered, will be held later, if at all.

Pong said, “We were eating around noon and another coach texted coach (Chad White) and told him (about the supension). Honestly, we were kind of expecting something, and we were talking about it because of all the schools and colleges closing and the NCAA’s decision.”

White said, “PIAA did the boys prelims, then the girls prelims, and as soon as the girls diving was over, they ended it. They just used the places from the prelims to give out the medals.

“It was an incredibly wild day. By not having the finals, it affected the team scores, because there are a lot of kids who don’t go 100% in the prelims.”

Fortunately, Pong did. His 50.10 time beat his seed time of 50.51, and was his personal best. Sean Faikish of North Penn was the winner with a time of 48.46.

“I think I did my absolute best and left it all out there,” Pong said. “I love to compete, and it was tough to not be able to race again, but I think it was the responsible thing for them to do.”

White said, “We were thinking he’d have a chance to drop more time and go for the school record (in the final). I was pleased with his prelim swim, though.”

It was also a good thing for the Drexel-bound swimmer that Class 3A was held first this year. It alternates with 2A between the Wednesday-Thursday and Friday-Saturday sessions.

“Yes, I am grateful that 3A was held first this year,” Pong said. “And it’s amazing that I qualified for two A finals this year, because I hadn’t done well at states before.”

On Wednesday, Pong captured third place in the 100 butterfly.

For the Shippensburg quartet of Madison Osanitsch, Julia and Jillian Strine and MaKenna Morris — who were entered in a total of nine events — it will now be a waiting game. PIAA has postponed basketball and swimming for at least two weeks, but there is a chance that it will be forced to cancel those championships.