Valley Sports Report
LEWISBURG - He took a bit of an unorthodox route, but Sayre senior Josh McClelland used a school-record performance in a "swim-off" to get into the finals, then won a bronze medal in the 50-yard freestyle here Wednesday afternoon at PIAA Swimming & Diving Championships at Bucknell University.
"It felt really good," said McClelland. "It was a lot of fun, and a good environment. I really enjoyed it.
"I just love this sport," he added. "I love to compete. It just means a lot to me to compete."
"He is intrinsically motivated," said Sayre coach Carrie Wright. "He knows what he has to do, and he does it."
McClelland opened his day with a school-record time of 21.78 seconds in the preliminaries to tie for eighth with Zach Turnitza of Pottsville, forcing a two-man "swim-off."
"The (swim-off) made me a little nervous at first, but since it was just me and him I was more comfortable with the race, and I did a better job in that race, than in the other ones," said McClelland.
A better job indeed.
McClelland banged out a school-record time of 21.31 seconds, while Turnitza touched in at 21.92 seconds.
Despite swimming faster in the swim-off than the top time in the preliminaries, McClelland was in the outside lane (Lane 8) for the finals.
McClelland said being in Lane 8 made the finals more of a "mental race."
"That was challenging because if I wanted to see anyone in front of me or to the side of me, I had to breathe only on the left on the way back," said McClelland.
"Basically, I had to push myself and put in the work," noted McClelland. "Normally, I can look over and see my pacing and know what I'm doing."
In the finals, McClelland swam a 21.39 to finish third. Huntingdon junior Nick Buckley won a state gold in a time of 21.22 seconds, and Neshannock sophomore Conner McBeth won the silver in 21.26 seconds.
Wright said McClelland was at a disadvantage from the time he won the District 4 Championships to qualify for the States.
"We have some amazing swimmers, but no one else like Josh," said Wright. "Without someone to push you daily it's difficult. There are very few swimmers in District 4 that can push him.
"For him, to take a second off the school-record is amazing," she noted. "He only had someone in the pool with him a couple of days.
"To be a Lone Ranger swimming and prepping for a meet like States is difficult," added Wright. "And, mentally it's difficult because you don't have the camaraderie of your teammates."
Wright notes McClelland's performance is a plus for a program she's trying to re-build.
"It's really good for the program.
"We have a program with a total of 14 kids, and by the same token we have a swimmer who was third in the state of Pennsylvania," she said. "It's just awesome."
McClelland finishes off his high school career Thursday in the 100-yard freestyle.
"I'm a little more nervous about (Thursday), I'm not as good in the 100 as the 50, but I've prepared for it, so I should be ready to go," said McClelland.
IN PHOTO: Sayre's Josh McClelland.
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