Parkland Press

Sunday, March 29, 2020
PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSONParkland divers Lexi Lehman (left) and Alexa Brinker (right) pose with their medals after the PIAA Championships last week. PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSONParkland divers Lexi Lehman (left) and Alexa Brinker (right) pose with their medals after the PIAA Championships last week.
PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSONAnnie Walls took second place in the 500-yard freestyle at the state championship meet. PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSONAnnie Walls took second place in the 500-yard freestyle at the state championship meet.
PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Alexa Brinker earned a state medal for her eighth-place finish at states last week. PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Alexa Brinker earned a state medal for her eighth-place finish at states last week.
PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Lexi Lehman finished sixth in her fourth trip to the state diving championships. PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Lexi Lehman finished sixth in her fourth trip to the state diving championships.

Walls earns state silver medal

Thursday, March 19, 2020 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

Three Parkland swimmers and three divers returned from Bucknell University with medals from the PIAA Class 3A Swimming and Diving Championships held last week at Bucknell University. Among those collecting medals were seniors Gavin Webb and Annie Walls in swimming events and senior divers Lexi Lehman and Alexa Brinker.

Walls finished second in the 500-yard freestyle relay event Thursday morning, finishing just .41 seconds behind first-place finisher Elle Brown of Upper Dublin. Walls, who generally turns in her best times in finals, had to settle for the silver medal rather than pursuing a gold after the event was cut short. Class3A finals for swimmers were canceled over concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

“It’s really disappointing, because I consider myself to be a finals swimmer and I always put together my best swims in finals,” said Walls. “I was really confident that I could come away with the gold medal, but now I’ll never know for sure.”

On the boys side, senior Gavin Webb grabbed a bronze medal in the 500-yard freestyle and had a legitimate opportunity to move up on the medal podium had the finals not been canceled. In his preliminary swim in the morning, Webb turned in a time of 4:30.16, just .01 seconds behind second-place finisher Rich Mihm of North Allegheny High School.

“I thought our swimmers did a really good job and I would have really liked to see Annie and Gavin swim in the finals because they both had a very good shot at moving up,” said Parkland head coach Rob Robitaille. “The really unfortunate thing is that for seniors, there’s no opportunity to come back next year and move up. This was their final shot.”

In diving, seniors Lehman and Brinker both put together strong outings. Lehman struggled on one dive late in the competition that dropped her in the tight standings race. For much of the competition, Lehman was in third or fourth position and ultimately had to settle for a sixth-place finish.

“I was a little disappointed, because I thought that I could finish higher,” said Lehman. “I had that one bad dive that really threw me, but there’s a lot of good competition and I enjoyed competing out here again.”

Brinker stayed locked in right around seventh where she would finish in the competition. After the semifinal round, Brinker had fallen to eighth, but moved back up to seventh during the finals round.

“I always have a lot of fun competing at these events and I would have liked to finish higher, but I did my best and I’m happy overall with how I competed,” said Brinker.

Both divers competed at states in all four years of high school. Lehman’s highest finish came last season when she was fifth and Brinker matched her highest finish with a second straight seventh place finish. Both will go on to dive in college, with Lehman headed to James Madison University and Brinker attending Dartmouth.

Sophomore Ethan Radio finished fourth in boys diving after fighting his way up the standings. Radio was in 10th place after the preliminaries, but after doing a little self-motivation, he jumped to fifth after the semifinals and finished fourth after the finals.

“I was kind of getting nervous and I started thinking to myself that ‘you can’t come back from this.’ I just changed my mindset and made it more positive and told myself ‘I can come back’ and I just calmed myself from there,” said Radio. “I knew that I could pull things together because I had done it before, so I’m glad that I got myself straightened out and was able to move up.”

Another underclassman, freshman Madison Tewksbury, also medaled at Bucknell, taking a sixth-place medal in the 100-yard breaststroke.

In the team standings, the Parkland girls finished 12th and the Parkland boys finished 21st in the standings.