LEWISBURG — A goal that Derek Estep set last March was realized Friday evening.
The Chambersburg junior took a full second off of his preliminary race time in the final and swam to first place in the 200 freestyle race at the PIAA Championships at Bucknell University to become a state champion.
“I’ve been working on this for a little while,” Estep said. “I started swimming 12 years ago. Last year I was fourth in this race (at states) and made it a goal to win this year. And it feels great.”
Estep is the first state swimming champion for Chambersburg since Brian Hostetler won the 100 freestyle in 1997. Nick Cover won gold in diving in 2017.
“We’ve had a few close calls and bunch of medals recently, but not a champion, so it was nice to break through,” said Trojan coach Chad White, who earned five PIAA medals, including a silver, in his career.
Estep had the third-best qualifying time entering states (1:40.41), while Sam Huggins of State College (1:39.59) and Can Yeniay of Conestoga (1:39.92) were seeded ahead of him.
In Friday’s prelims, Yeniay posted 1:39.92 and Estep was timed in 1:39.50, which was the next-best time and set a team record.
“I was confident after the morning’s qualifying,” Estep said. “I was kind of cruising, and then I wanted to go out at night and push it. I saved just enough in the tank to get my hand on the wall first.”
White said, “We knew the Conestoga kid (Yeniay) likes to go fast in the third 50, and Derek went out hard and challenged him to come and get him. I know in the last 25, Derek was hurting.”
That strategy is not Estep’s normal plan.
“It depends on the situation,” he said, “but normally I like to back-half it (swim faster toward the end). Since this guy usually does back-half, too, I just went out fast and tried to hold on.
“At the last flip, I could see him making his way back up. I’d say with about 10 yards left, I thought I had enough left in the tank to finish.”
The winning time was 1:38.50, while Yeniay swam a time of 1:38.87.
Estep swam 23.1 in the first lap in the morning, and lowered it to 22.6 in the final. His midway time was 47.6 in the final, better than his earlier split (48.8). By the end of the third leg, Estep was at 1:12.64 and Yeniay’s time was 1:13.97.
White said, “He took it out very fast — he was going for it. The 200 free is an interesting race, kind of like the 800 in track, because you can use different strategies.”
Estep said, “I thought a 1:38 would win it, but I was trying to hit 1:38.39 so I could qualify for Summer Junior Nationals. I didn’t get it, but I got a state medal, so that’s OK.”
The Trojan ace said getting experience at last year’s PIAA meet was a big factor.
“That helped a lot,” he said. “Getting a feel for this meet was big, because it’s not like any other high school meet — it’s a whole different atmosphere.”
White said, “I’m very proud of him. He represents Chambersburg very well.”
Chambersburg also had two other individuals and a relay team also compete Friday. Freshman Alex Kaczmark posted a 51.84 to place 22nd in the 100 butterfly, and senior Brandon Estep placed 24th at 52.26 in the same race.
The 200 freestyle relay placed 22nd with a time of 1:28.02. Both Esteps, Kaczmark and Joseph Decker made up the squad.
“Both Alex and Brandon improved their place from their qualifying time,” White said. “Alex was the fastest freshman or sophomore in the race and Brandon had a good race to end his career.
“A lot of teams taper for districts just to be able to qualify for states, and about half of the kids don’t swim as fast up here. But we had better times here in almost every race we had.”
In Class 3A girls, Waynesboro’s Eve Phillips qualified for the B final with the 16th-best time in the morning (58.28). She improved to 57.28 in the final to place 13th.
Saturday, Derek Estep will try his luck in the 100 free, where he had the sixth-best time coming into the meet, and Chambersburg will compete in the 400 free relay. Phillips will compete in the 100 free.