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Tribe Swimmers' Hard Work Shows at State Championship Meet
Written by Ernie Quatrani Correspondent
2015-03-18

Attending the PIAA State Swimming Championships at Bucknell University on March 12 and 13, left to right, Mitch Cairns, Kirsten Siwy, Brandon Umstead, Coach Nick Gilbert and Coach Brien Kalnoski.
 

                Coach Brien Kalnoski settled on the words "incredible" and "great" to describe the performances of Upper Perk's Brandon Umstead, Kirsten Siwy and Mitch Cairns at the recent PIAA State Championship swim meet.

                Umstead and Siwy both set school records at the event, Umstead in the 100 backstroke and the 200 individual medley, Siwy in the 100 and 200 freestyle.

                "Brandon had an incredible meet.  Each time he got up to race he went faster," said Kalnoski.

Umstead broke the records that he had set last year in districts and states. His 100 backstroke time (53.05) put him in 9th place, and he finished 10th in the 200 IM (1:58.89).

Umstead was ecstatic about his 100 backstroke. "It was probably the best swim of my life. It felt so good."

                "I know Brandon wanted to swim faster than he did at districts," Kalnoski related. "We talked after each of his events at districts and said that our goals for this season were to be a district double champion, which he was, and to make it to the state meet and do our fastest swimming there.  Brandon accomplished all of those goals."

                Umstead traces his success to a good swimming background, hard work, great teammates, and outstanding coaches, who worked him strenuously.

                "It was a great four years. It's a little bittersweet that it's over, but on to bigger and better things."

                Those bigger and better things include a pending enlistment in the military as a Navy diver, a career that will begin in September.

                "Kirsten also had an incredible meet," Kalnoski noted about Upper Perk's lone female at the race.  Siwy became the first Tribe female swimmer to make it out of the preliminaries and into the finals and the first Upper Perk female to record points at states in 15 years.

                The 200 freestyle record that she broke at Districts was a 17-year old team record.  And she did it twice in two weeks!" Kalnoski reported.

                "I wanted to go out, do a different race than I normally do, so I focused mainly on my starts and turns and took it out fast and tried to maintain that pace,"  Siwy said.

                Like Umstead, Siwy benefitted from the experience of having been at states before.

                "Everyone is there for the same reason. They all worked hard. It mostly comes down to who has the mental capacity and wants to do well," she explained.

                Siwy, a junior, did achieve her goal of making the consolation finals, and she is already thinking ahead. "Next year, I definitely want to medal. I fell short this year."

                Cairns, another junior, also gained valuable experience while swimming the 500 freestyle in 5:09.17.

                "I feel really well about what I did at states," Cairns said. "I didn't swim my best time, but my goal this year was to make the states and to do that is a great accomplishment."

                Kalnoski agrees with that assessment.

                "To qualify for the state championship meet today is a very difficult process.  Kids are swimming faster than ever.  What this means is that a lot of hard work has to go into just getting through the district meet to qualify for the state meet."

                Adjusting to the atmosphere and the high level of competition is also a task in and of itself. Kalnoski noted, "The intensity, focus, energy, and excitement is evident when you step on to that pool deck.  The noise from the spectators and swimmers when races are close and records are broken is awesome."

                "Being there for the first time psyches you out; it's a lot to take in," Cairns said.

                For a swimmer, the state championships are a one-of-a kind event and a reward for the tireless effort that goes into being an elite swimmer.

                Or, in Kalnoski's words, "For the rest of their swimming careers, swimmers can say they were either a state qualifier or state finalist, and that is a great accomplishment." 


 

 

 

 

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