LEWISBURG — Marcos Rico made sure that no one – not the officials, not his competition – would take a gold medal away from him.
A day after having a title revoked, the Wyoming Seminary sophomore won the state championship in the 100 breast Friday at the PIAA Class 2A Boys Swimming Championships.
Rico finished in 57 seconds flat, the fastest time for any Class 2A swimmer in six years. His performance was the second-quickest time in PIAA history, only trailing Bloomsburg’s Zach Stephens’ 55.64 swim in 2001.
“I swam the breaststroke so many times,” Rico said. “After they disqualified me yesterday for basically breaststroking, before I had gone, I was nervous – ‘I must not mess up this time.’ After that, I just enjoyed my favorite event.”
The Spanish foreign exchange student becomes the first Wyoming Valley Conference swimmer to make it to the top of the podium in a full decade. Bishop Hoban’s Matt Kolojejchick was the last WVC gold medal winner when he won the 50 free, coincidentally the last time a snow storm caused the PIAA to change to a timed finals format.
Rico is the first Wyoming Seminary swimmer to earn a state championship. It also marks the first state title earned by a Class 2A swimmer not wearing Bishop Hoban and Dallas colors.
It was a tumultuous championships for Rico. In the first event, a PIAA official charged him with using two dolphin kicks in the breaststroke leg of medley relay. Despite touching the wall, Wyoming Seminary was disqualified and did not receive a state championship.
“Yesterday was a little disappointing,” Rico said. “We put a lot of hard work and got disqualified. Today was hard. We bounced back really well. We forgot about it, put it in the past, and focused on the now. We went all out.”
Rico was distraught about the race and rallied around his coaches’ and teammates’ support.
“After the let down yesterday, at that moment, it was a big setback,” Rico said. “All of my peers helped me get back together. We helped each other to get stronger.”
He was neck-and-neck with the field, holding a mere nine-hundredths of a lead over Clearfield’s Chase Bietz at the midway. Bietz and company tapered off, and Rico clocked in 1.08 seconds ahead of Big Spring’s Jarod Anderson.
His teammate Stan Zaneski took home his second individual medal of the championships. Swimming in his final high school race, Zaneski secured fourth place in 46.71 seconds.
“Besides the medals, I had a really great time with this team,” Zaneski said. “I don’t think anything is going to top it. It’s been the best year of my life swimming with these guys. The fact that I topped it off with a little medal is even better.”
The Blue Knights wrapped up the weekend by taking their fifth PIAA medal. Zaneski, Matt Bean, Yonah Wasik and Rico registered a season-best 3:13.15 to finish in sixth place.
“It was great bouncing back. We can all say competing as a team is fantastic,” Bean said. “Coming back the second day, it took a lot to rebound from that. But we rallied as a team.”
Sem girls close with bronze
The Wyoming Seminary girls’ 400 free relay team captured a bronze medal in its final race of the weekend. The Blue Knights’ foursome of April Kupsky, Ava Baur, Haley Thier and Tara Kupsky finished with a school-best time of 3:35.45.
“We did not bring any seniors,” Wyoming Seminary coach Philip Mercatili said. “Every girl is an underclassman, and they got third. We have two freshman girls. I expect next year to be really successful. I would be blown away if we don’t swim faster next year.”
Baur’s second leg of 54.37 seconds was the second-fastest among her competitors.
Wyoming Seminary finished the meet in 10th place overall with 85 points. Holy Redeemer and Dallas trailed in 13th and 17th places, respectively.
Mercatili mentioned the girls relay, who had watched the boys’ meet on television at their hotel, told assistant coach Jenna Mercatili, “Let’s do this for the boys” when they first reunited with the team last night.
“Good or bad, we’ve been a family the whole time,” Mercatili said. “It is great for both boys and girls to swim lights out.”
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