LEWISBURG — Penn-Trafford senior Christian McCurdy made a promise to his future swimming coach at North Carolina State.
“I was having a quick chat with him, and he calls me ‘Rocky’ as a nickname,” McCurdy said. “So I told him that if I go 48 (seconds) in the 100 butterfly that I would scream ‘Drago.’ ”
It wasn’t quite an upset of Rocky IV proportions — McCurdy was after all the top seed heading into the final heat of the 100-yard butterfly at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium — but he completed an amazing comeback nonetheless as he swam a time of 48.80 seconds to beat Hershey senior Philip Mancuso by 0.12 seconds to win his first PIAA Class AAA championship.
“It feels really good right now,” McCurdy said. “I’m really glad I get to be a state champion, and I really don’t know what I’m saying because I’m so tired right now.”
While he was recovering and trying to find his tongue, Latrobe senior Lucas Bureau came over and offered him his congratulations and a friendly hug. Bureau found out exactly what it felt like to be a state champion for the first time himself just about 30 minutes earlier as he swam a 1:38.33 to beat LaSalle College senior Christopher Szekely by 0.55 seconds in the 200-yard freestyle.
“It was a state final and you give everything you’ve got in those last couple yards,” Bureau said. “To come out on time and finish hard… I had a lead and I could see open water on my sides when I was taking my breaths, and I used that to my advantage.”
Bureau, who will attend Virginia Tech in the fall, switched over to the 200 freestyle after focusing on the 100 butterfl last year. He reveled in his new event and won the WPIAL Class AAA championship March 1 at Pitt’s Trees Pool.
Now Bureau is looking to parlay his win in the 200 freestyle the same way he did in the WPIAL finals. And, just like in the 200, he will have to do it in an event in which he is not the top seed going in.
Bureau was the No. 2 seed prior to the morning qualifiers and will be No. 3 in the 100 freestyle finals today.
“Who wouldn’t want to win double gold, and this is going to be hard,” Bureau said. “It won’t be a walk in the park, but I think I have a lot of momentum on my side. Momentum is huge in this sport.”
McCurdy could use some this morning as well. He, too will be seeking double gold when he takes the blocks for the 500 freestyle, an event he is favored to win. McCurdy has the fastest seed time heading in after he swam a 4:32.59, which is nearly four full seconds better than Hershey sophomore Zachary Luttrell.
Momentum might be all McCurdy has left after the impressive comeback he had to win his state title. He swam a solid 22.69 seconds in the first 50 yards, but at the turn he was stuck in fourth place. As everyone else faded though, McCurdy, who is a distance specialist, finished his final 50 in 26.11 to touch the wall first.
“I didn’t even realize that,” McCurdy said. “Everybody has a different racing strategy, but my body is used to not going out as fast but bringing it back quicker. I definitely felt like there were a bunch of different speeds in that race and thought that would happen.”