Moments after touching home in first place, John Frank shook the water from his face and looked quickly at the scoreboard.
“I knew it was good, but didn’t believe it,” said the Pine Creek junior. “I took a second look to make sure.”
Frank had achieved his goal of breaking the pool record in the 100-yard butterfly at Palmer High School on Wednesday. That was confirmed when he looked at Pine Creek’s first-year coach, Devin Wahl.
“He was jumping up and down,” Frank said. “I was exceptionally happy.”
Frank may have been the most impressive performer at the Class 5A dual meet but Palmer easily claimed the victory, 110.5 to 72.5. The Terrors celebrated afterward by tossing third-year coach Kayla Dooley in the pool.
“Beating them was a pretty big deal for us,” said Palmer junior Chad Ribisi. “It feels great. Our top swimmer (Riley Carson) wasn’t here but we have a lot of depth and really pulled together. We had a lot of young guys do well.”
Ribisi, who qualified for the state meet last year, won the 100 backstroke and was second in the 100 butterfly, recording personal bests in both events.
“I was going for the pool record this year,” Ribisi said with a smile, “but (Frank) beat me to it. He’s a beast.”
Frank’s best time in the 100 fly is 53.55 seconds, achieved at last year’s state meet. He clocked 53.87 to set the Palmer pool record and nearly erased a 10-yard deficit on the anchor leg of the 200 freestyle relay.
“John’s shown a lot of improvement this year,” Wahl said. “It was a gutsy performance to set the record.”
Both coaches agree that Air Academy is a threat to repeat as the 4A state champions, but said their teams are improving.
Palmer’s Andrew Doehring won the 50 and 100 freestyles and helped the Terrors’ relay teams win the 200 medley and 200 freestyle. Dooley also praised sophomore Maxx Helfer, who won the 100 breaststroke and improved his times in three other events.
“This was a big win,” Dooley said before allowing her swimmers to throw her in the pool. “We’ve gotten deeper and better at the top. We’ll see what happens at the league meet.”
Wahl commended Pine Creek junior Cameron DelMonico, who won the 200 individual medley. It was the Eagles’ only victory besides Frank’s win and the 400 freestyle relay that included Christopher Byrd, Frank, DelMonico and John Yu.
Wahl said Frank’s record-setting race was especially impressive during a difficult time of the season because practices include a lot of yardage training.
“Guys are really broken down and tired,” Wahl said. “We’ll start tapering in the next 10 days or so.”
Frank said staying strong mentally is the hardest part.
“I took the ACT yesterday, had three classes and then got in the pool for practice,” he said. “It definitely gets mentally taxing. Days like this make it all worthwhile.”