It was anybody’s race.
But when it was over, it belonged to Joseph Hong.
The Pennridge junior touched the wall in 56.99 to win the 100-yard breaststroke at the District One Class 3A boys swimming championships, held Thursday and Friday at Kirk Pool on the campus of LaSalle Unversity.
With the win, Hong also secured the lone automatic spot for the PIAA competition, slated for March 11-14 at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium.
“I didn’t see this coming,” Hong said of his win. “I didn’t really taper for districts. I just swam through it.”
Hong capitalized on the fact that three top performers in this event from previous seasons, Sean Faikish of North Penn, Matthew Jensen of Upper Dublin and Dom Edwards of Council Rock North, opted for other races; Faikish swam the 100 backstroke, Jensen the 100 freestyle and Edwards went for the 500 freestyle. Each won the event they competed in.
“I knew this event was wide open,” he said.
But Hong has owned this event all season. His winning time lowered his own school record.
“This really has been my event,” he said. “Ever since I’ve been swimming, this has been my best stroke. I’ve been swimming since I was 7 years old and it’s always been like that.”
While event winners get the only automatic berths into the state meet, other swimmers received spots based on times.
“Winning definitely gives me confidence going into states but I know that I have to be aware of other districts,” he said. “There’s a lot of good swimmers around the state.
“I definitely want to ‘A’ final at states this year so I’ll taper for that. I went to states last year and I didn’t do so well but that was definitely a good learning experience for me. This year I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and hopefully I’ll do better.”
In addition to his victory in the 500 freestyle (4:36.25), Edwards was third in the 200 individual medley (1:53.60) and will compete at states in both events.
Teammate Martin Vradinskiy was ninth in the 100 backstroke (52.49) and will swim that event at states.
CR North has the distinction of being one of the only programs to get all three relays to the state meet.
The 200 medley relay of Will Higgins, Edwards, Vradinskiy and Austin Ruggles finished ninth. Their time of 1:38.20 was good enough for a state berth.
The Indians’ 200 freestyle relay of Jack Henderson, Ruggles, Michael Kiedaisch and Caleb Chryst reached the podium, taking seventh (1:28.10) and punching their state ticket.
CR North capped the meet with the bronze medal and a state spot in the 400 freestyle relay. Edwards, Henderson, Vradinskiy and Higgins touched in 3:10.81.
The Indians finished fourth in team scoring with 149 points.
Tommy Krystkiewicz of Central Bucks East earned a spot in the 200 individual medley at states with his eighth place time of 1:56.82.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting to make it to states, so this is awesome,” Krystkiewicz said. “I had a good meet but it was super fast this year. I’ve been to districts before, and I think that really helped me because I knew what to do.
“I felt great in warmup so I knew I was going to have a good swim and I did. I think my breaststroke was my worst leg. That tends to hold me back, so that’s something to improve on.”
He hit the lane line in his backstroke leg.
“It wasn’t huge, but it was enough to throw me off a little,” he said. “So that’s another reason I think I can drop time at states.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I’m really proud of myself for getting there.”
Tyler Einolf of Quakertown will compete in two events at states. He was 10th in the 100 breaststroke (58.50) and 13th in the 200 individual medley (1:58.00) with times good enough to advance.
In Class 2A, New Hope-Solebury’s John Devaney was a double winner, taking first in the 50 freestyle (21.79) and 100 freestyle (48.02).
In addition to getting two automatic state spots, Devaney earned the BJ Howat Outstanding Swimmer award as the swimmer of the meet for his gender and classification.