Last updated: March 14. 2013 10:48PM -
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LEWISBURG — A self-proclaimed baseball guy went 3-for-4 in his swings at state medals in his second sport of swimming.

And it was another day, another top-three finish for District 2 divers.

Led by a bronze medal performance from Lake-Lehman diver Matthew Edkins and one more medal in the pocket of Dallas swimmer Brian Stepniak, the Wyoming Valley Conference came up with a big finish Thursday to the PIAA Class 2A Swimming and Diving Championships.

“It’s a great way to finish my career,” said Stepniak, a senior who finished seventh in the boys 200 freestyle Thursday with a time of 47.98 seconds. “I never expected to be at this level. I’m really happy I was.”

He may be headed to the University of Hartford to pitch on a baseball scholarship in the fall, but Stepniak was a big hit at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium this week.

Stepniak started his final state swimming run by earning seventh place in the 50-yard freestyle event Wednesday, then helped the Mountaineers 200 freestyle relay team place seventh later that evening. That gave Stepniak three medals in his first three state events — and he narrowly missed collecting a fourth. Stepniak led off for Dallas’ 400 freestyle relay team, which wound up ninth in Thursday morning’s preliminaries and settled for swimming in a consolation heat.

“I feel real good,” Stepniak said. “It’s a lot more than I expected.”

His performance highlighted a collection of clutch performances by boys from the Back Mountain.

Lehman’s Edkins used a strong finish to secure third place in the state and roll up a total of 407.35 points, while Dallas’ Marcus Wagner topped a school record he’d already broken in the consolations of the boys 500 freestyle, where he finished 13th overall.

But the day wasn’t completely owned by athletes living within the Back Mountain’s boundaries.

District 2 was well-represented, with Tunkhannock’s Ben Spencer earning his second state medal in as many days by taking sixth place in the 100 backstroke in 53.21 seconds and Scranton Prep’s Mia Nonnenberg easily pocketing her second gold medal of the week. Nonnenberg coasted to victory in Thursday’s girls 500 freestyle by more than eight seconds.

Also, Crestwood twin brothers Josh and Joseph Grzech swam in separate state consolation heats Thursday, with Joseph chopping a half-second off his seed time to move from 19th to 16th in the 100 breastroke and Josh finishing 12th in the 100 freestyle. Wyoming Seminary diver Andriy Molchanov made the semifinal round and finished 10th overall with a score of 338.9. And Holy Redeemer breastroker Terry Vrabec also swam his way into a consolation heat.

“It’s great,” said Spencer, who also captured fifth place in Wednesday’s 200 IM. “Coming into this, I didn’t know how I’d do. I ended up medaling twice. I really had no idea I’d do that. It’s great that I did, though. It feels great.”

Thursday’s great performances from the WVC began with Edkins overcoming his fears.

After recording scores of over 31 on his ninth and 10th dives, Edkins executed the tricky reverse 1 1/2 somersault tuck to near-perfection on his final attempt — and locked up a bronze medal with a score of 36.75 for the effort.

“That last one, sometimes I have trouble with,” Edkins said. “I really wanted to make sure I hit that. I’m so proud that I did. I was definitely nervous. I just wanted to really, really hit it.”

The big finish moved Edkins three spots up from where he stood on last year’s medal stand, when he took sixth place for Lehman.

“He did what I said and executed his dives unbelievably today,” Lehman coach Erin Yurko said. “Big improvement (from last year). His reverse reverse 1 1/2, that could be a hit or miss for him. He hit it.”

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