Highlands’ Blackburn leads Alle-Kiski Valley contingent at PIAA swimming

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Saturday, March 17, 2018 | 11:01 PM


Rachel Blackburn reports to softball practice Monday afternoon as she starts to get ready for her spring high school season.

It's a quick turnaround for the Highlands sophomore who wrapped up her swimming season Saturday at the PIAA Class AA championships at Bucknell.

Blackburn, competing at states for the second year in a row but for the first time in an individual event, placed 14th overall in the girls 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1 minute, 8.65 seconds.

“It's just an honor for me to be here and represent my school and community,” Blackburn said. “My race went really well. We worked on my turns all week, and I felt really confident.”

Blackburn's third in the 100 breast at WPIALs and her time of 1:07.64 put her as the 14th seed for states.

She moved up to 13th after the preliminaries (1:08.18).

Deer Lakes sophomores Renee Robson, Adam Morrison and Noah Loper also returned for consolation swims Saturday.

Morrison just missed a spot in the top-eight championship final with a ninth in the prelims (4:51.50). But he lowered his time in the consey heat to 4:50.85 and placed 10th.

“I was happy to get ninth in the prelims but also a little disappointed because I was so close to a medal,” Morrison said. “To finish 10th after finishing 28th last year, it feels incredible.”

Morrison placed 15th in the 200 free Friday.

“I've swum the 200 and 500 here twice now, and I want to work even harder to hopefully come back next year and improve even more,” Morrison said.

Loper made his PIAA debut Friday in the 200 individual medley and took 22nd.

He came back Saturday and scored a 13th-place finish in the 500 free, dropping more than a second off his seed time with a 4:51.81.

He came in as the sixth seed.

“I was a little disappointed about my performance (Saturday) morning, but I rested, got ready for the consolations and tried to do better,” Loper said.

Loper said he gained confidence from hearing about states from Robson and Morrison.

“I really enjoyed the experience,” Loper said. “I am pretty excited to come back next year, work hard and hopefully do it again.”

Morrison and Loper also teamed with senior Alex Sharkins and freshman Max Hilliard as the 400 free relay finished 19th in 3:24.53.

Robson made the most of her opportunity in the consolation finals of the 100 free. She came into the race seeded 15th, and that's where she finished as she swam to a time of 53.68.

“Making it to states is already such a privilege, but making it to finals is such a great feeling,” Robson said. “Dropping time just adds to it.”

Robson started her 2018 state experience Friday with a 26th in the 50 free.

“Coming back to states helped grow my confidence even more,” Robson said. “Everyone's fast at states, and the competition is great.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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