SWIMMING: Back Again: Elin Smith wins Warren’s first D10 swimming title since 2008, breaks 20-year-old record in 100 back

ERIE – If Warren swim coach Jeff Walters was excited about the Dragons’ performances on Friday at the District 10 Class AAA Championships at Penn State Behrend, he was dancing on the pool deck on Saturday.

That’s because, on top of a number of inspirational performances, Warren Area High School has its first District 10 champion in five years.

Sophomore Elin Smith won the District 10 Class AAA title in the 100-yard backstroke, breaking a 20-year Warren school record in the process, on Saturday at the Junker Center.

Smith, who was seeded first in the event, won in 59.83 seconds – the first time she has broken the one-minute mark. In fact, it’s the first time anyone from Warren has broke the one-minute mark. Smith automatically qualifies for the PIAA meet at Bucknell University.

“She’s a very focused kid,” said Walters. “She sets her sights on something and nothing will get in her way. It was a privilege for me to (put the medal around her neck).”

Smith had been looking to break the school record in the 100 backstroke during the regular season as one of her goals. The record was previously 1:00.21, set in 1993 by Ann Jablonowski.

“I’m not upset at all I did it at districts,” she said, adding that it had to take a back seat to winning. “Going into the race, I really just wanted to make it to states.”

Only district champions automatically qualify for the PIAA meet, but she won, broke a school record and swam under a minute for the first time ever all in the same race. Words can’t express the look on her face at the finish.

The team’s journey was made more difficult by a number of practice cancellations and meet postponements due to weather, but the team, and Smith, couldn’t have peaked at a better time.

“Success breeds success,” said Walters. “The successes we had on Friday – when someone sees Ellis (Beardsley) swimming out of her mind and Logan (Gearhart) swimming out of his mind, and Bradley (Walters) coming back from surgery and Anna (Falvo) coming back from illness, Elin fed into that, too.

“I told the kids afterward, everybody had a hand in our district champion’s success,” he said.

Beardsley and Gearhart had strong second-place finishes on Friday in the 200 free, and Beardsley finished second again on Saturday in the 100 free (55.76 seconds) with her “best time ever,” said Walters.

“She picked it right up again on Saturday, bruised fingers and all,” said Walters of Beardsley’s strong finish into the wall on Friday in the 200 free.

“Those kind of time drops are special,” said Walters.

Also on Saturday, Gearhart was fourth in the 100 back in 55.28 seconds, under two-tenths of a second off of the school record (55.12), a day after setting a new record in the 200.

Warren’s 400 free relay team of Clark Eason, Sean McGuinness, Wyatt Pierson and Bradley Walters was fifth out of five teams, but dropped its best time by about 20 seconds.

Smith’s record

“We had a lot of fun,” said Walters. “Mandy Fehlman gave her version of (Herb Brooks’) inspirational speech. She inserted swimming and swimmers instead of hockey and hockey players. There was some comedy to it, but it was also inspiring. Then we went to work.”

Bennett Steber was fifth in the 100 breaststroke, McGuinness ninth in the 100 back, Cameron Daniels sixth in the 100 free, Anna Falvo sixth in the girls’ 100 breaststroke, Lacey Grinnen eighth in the 500 free, and the girls’ 400 free relay fourth.

Here are results from Saturday’s events at the District 10 Class AAA Championships at Penn State Behrend: