To say it was a historic night at the THS natatorium would not be doing it justice.
The Titusville Rocket boys swimming team broke four school records and ended Grove City’s six-plus year stronghold on the region with an upset, 91-79, win over the Eagles, Thursday night.
After falling in the first showdown between these Region 1 powerhouses, 90-79, on Jan. 4, the Titusville boys were waiting for their second chance to dethrone the Eagles.
Every member of the team had that “90-79” score etched into their brains, while the final tally from the loss was posted on the wall in the school for everyone to see — a reminder of what lay ahead.
“It was motivation for us,” Titusville senior Shane Steffy said. “That night when I got home, I actually put the same [score] up on my wall above my bed. Every single morning I saw it, and it was a constant reminder.”
When it came time for the Rockets for take to the pool, they were more than ready for the Eagles. However, the Eagles showed why they had won 96 consecutive region meets heading into Thursday.
They say that strong competition brings out the best in an athlete. Well, that was certainly the case for the Rockets.
Steffy started off the record-breaking night by setting a new THS mark in the 200-free.
During the first half of the race, Steffy trailed Grove City’s Ben McKnights. However, Steffy’s pace allowed him to pick up some extra stream in the final lap. After making the final flip turn at the far end of the pool, Steffy was able to catch McKnight, causing the crowd to erupt, while breaking the Titusville school record with a time of two-minutes, two-seconds, and 17 one-hundredths.
It didn’t take long for history to be broken again.
In the next race, the 200-IM, Titusville’s Zach Titus broke Devon Pettit’s 2014 school mark, of 2:22.76, with a time of 2:22.72.
Even though THS records were falling, Grove City took the early lead, and maintained it through the 10-minute intermission following the 50-free, 33-29.
Down by four points, after the 100-fly, at 41-37, the depth of the Rockets started to flourish, grabbing much-needed second and third place depth points.
In the 100-free, Zaide Crawford, Austin Frater, and Zach Burton finished second through fourth, respectively. Although Titusville didn’t take first in the event, the deficit shrunk to just two points, 48-46.
With their first lead in sight, the Rockets were set to launch.
In the 400-free, Steffy shattered his second record of the evening, beating his own THS record by just under five seconds, at 4:24.84. Along with Steffy’s first-place finish, Seth Brooks and Trey Kirvan finished third and fifth, respectively, to help the Rockets grab their first lead of the evening, 56-54.
After Grove City knotted the score at 62-62 following the 200-free relay, Titusville jumped back in front during the 100-back.
As he’s done all season, Titus dominated the event and cruised to a first-place finish. In what may have been one of the most surprising results of the evening, Brooks was able to beat Grove City’s top swimmer in the race, Mason Wise, by 32 one-hundredths of a second for second place, and a six point Titusville lead, 73-67.
After keeping its lead at six points following the 100-breast, Titusville needed to finish second and third in the final event, the 400-free relay, to complete the upset.
The pro-Titusville crowd rose as one to its feet prior to the start of the race, hoping to witness history.
Keeping in lock step with the theme of the evening, Titusville shattered expectations, and the record books one last time.
Max McAllister, Crawford, Titus, and Steffy teamed up to win the event with a time of 3:46.07, and break the previous THS record, set by J.J. Bleday, Pettit, Josiah Leach, and Adam Bleday back in 2013. The B relay team of Brian Clark, Ralph Turchio, Frater, and Brooks finished in third place, rounding out the 91-79 victory for the Rockets.
“As soon as we heard the crowd cheering, we knew we were getting close, so we just gunned it,” McAllister said. “When the last person hit the wall, it was better than breaking any records, or better than making it to districts. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life.”
As Steffy completed the final leg of the relay, the Rockets were elated with joy, and mobbed each other near the starting line.
“It’s been a dream of mine since my freshmen year,” Steffy said about beating Grove City. “We’ve looked to them as the ‘Gods of Swimming,’ so it’s nice to finally beat them. I love being captain this year,” This is the best group of swimmers I’ve swam with my entire life. I love them like family.”
Titusville boys coach Kevin Dawson praised the effort from his team following the meet.
“That was one of the best all-around team efforts I have experienced in quite some time,” Dawson said. “Each swimmer had a job to do, and they got it done, and then some. When we put the lineup together we predicted us finishing tied at 85-85. So we told the boys the only way to win such an even matchup was with heart and determination. They showed a lot of that [Thursday]. We had a long list of personal best times, several new district qualifiers and three new school records. The boys work so hard everyday, and having this meet at home close to the end of the regular season was fuel for every set we did leading up to this moment. Our new goal for next week will be to win the last two region meets on our schedule, so we can share the region title with Grove City.
Eagle girls soar past Rockets, 121-49
In the girls meet, Grove City was victorious, 121-49. Titusville is now
Alaina Attenborough qualified for districts in the 400-free, dropping her personal-best time by five seconds. She also had a personal best in the 200-medley relay.
Sierra Baker (50-free and 100-breast), Amy Bleday (200-free), Lexi Couch (100-breast), Kearra Deeter (100-back and 200-medley relay), Sam Prichard (100-breast and 200-free), Reagan Shaw (200-medley relay), and Emma Sines (50-free and 200-medley relay) also turned in personal-best times.
“The girls looked at [Thursday’s] meet as a great opportunity to lower their times,” Titusville girls coach Judy Lesko said. “Again, there was no pressure on them, as we knew what a powerhouse Grove City is. It is always a great opportunity to match up with them as competitors.”
At the start of the 10-minute intermission following the 50-free, the Titusville Rockets recognized the support that the community has given to the team also season long. Members of the girls and boys teams presented their parents, grandparents, and/or legal guardians with carnations in thanks for the support of the program.
“It’s amazing seeing all of the people come out and show us the support,” McAllister said. “We don’t get that very often, but when we do, it hypes everybody up.”
Titusville will travel to Oil City on Monday, at 6 p.m., for a Region 1 meet. The Rocket boys (10-1 overall, 9-1 Region 1) are now tied with Grove City for first-place in Region 1. The Rockets are now in position to at least share the region title, if they can win their remaining two region meets.