PIAA swimming: Golden finish for Mars duo
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LEWISBURG, Pa. -- As far as the Mars High School swimmers were concerned, there was no place better on the planet for the Planets than Bucknell University on Saturday night.
Margaret Gruber and Kurt Meulheuser provided show-stealing performances that resulted in two more gold medals for the Planets at the PIAA Class AA championships.
Gruber's victory in the 100-yard backstroke was the highlight of the girls finals. A junior, she defeated Mercyhurst Prep's Marie Georger in a spectacular race, denying Georger her fourth PIAA gold medal in the event.
Gruber touched the wall in 54.54 seconds; Georger finished in 54.67. It was the closest championship race of the meet among girls.
Combined with Gruber's state-record effort Friday in the 100 butterfly, it propelled Gruber to the Pennsylvania Swimming Coaches Association swimmer of the meet award.
All good for Gruber, but all she really cared about was that time.
"I just wanted to get my best time," she said. "[Georger] is a great swimmer, and I didn't know if I could beat her. It's nice getting gold, but swimming the best time is always first."
Hearing that made Meulheuser, who also won a 100 backstroke title with a time of 51.93, smile.
"That's Maggie," Meuhlheuser said. "Typically, I'm a not a win-loss person, either, but I definitely wanted to touch the wall first tonight."
With his victory, Meulheuser became Mars' first boys PIAA swimming champion.
Meuhlheuser won the backstroke by nearly a second over another Mercyhurst Prep swimmer, David Benczkowski, who finished in 52.90.
Meulheuser's victory, along with a consolation final victory in the 400 freestyle relay and a seventh-place finish in the 500 freestyle by Christopher Georgiadis gave Mars a second-place finish in the team standings behind Fairview of District 10. Fairview scored 180 points; Mars compiled 113.
"It was a great weekend," Meuhlheuser said. "We only came up here with five guys on the boys team, and to finish that high is great. And to leave with three gold medals for the school is exciting."
The WPIAL earned another gold medal when Bobby Francis of Quaker Valley, the third seed entering the 100 breaststroke finals, swam an excellent race to win handily in 57.33 seconds. Runner-up Adam Phillips of Elk Lake finished at 58.04.
Despite not having a champion, West Allegheny managed a fourth-place finish in the girls standings with 137. The Indians trailed champion Villa Maria Academy of Malvern (221 points), Central Columbia (186) and Mercyhurst Prep (141). All of those schools had at least one champion.
First Published March 18, 2012 12:00 am