WILKES-BARRE — Abby Zolner decided it was her turn to have the limelight.
Normally, as has been the case for the past four years, it is her teammate, Annalise Cheshire, who anchors the decisive 400 free relay. But in her final district race, Zolner wanted to swim the last leg.
And the call paid off — Zolner won Dallas a district championship.
Seniors Zolner and Cheshire capped off a career sweep, leading the Mountaineers to their fourth consecutive District 2 Class 2A girls swimming championship Monday in the final day of competition. The Dallas boys joined the girls on the top of the podium with their first district championship since 2016.
“Anna is usually the anchor because she is the best under pressure,” Zolner said. “But I decided it was my turn this year. I thought, ‘I can do it, I can do it, I can’t let my team down.’
“It was for a district title. When I touched, I didn’t want to look up. Anna was screaming. It still doesn’t feel real.”
Dallas edged Wyoming Seminary for the girls championship by a 268-255 point differential. Trailing by a point with three events left, the Mountaineers outscored Tunkhannock by 76 points the rest of the way to win the boys standings.
“I used to pray for times like this,” Dallas senior Tony Caravaggio said. “It is just an amazing feeling to get districts back.”
The Mountaineers needed a clean race in the 400 free relay to secure the victory on the girls side. With a seven-point lead, a top-two finish would ensure a district title.
Cheshire started the race with a two-hundredths of a second lead over Wyoming Seminary before giving way to Gabby Krochta and Melissa Leonard, who found themselves trailing by 2.5 seconds heading into the final 200 yards.
Zolner crept up on Wyoming Seminary’s Tara Kupsky, surpassing her in the final 25 yards. Zolner gave Dallas a 29-hundredths of a second win with a 3:34.52.
“It means a lot to us to go out with a bang, and to have my teammates and everyone else by my side,” Cheshire said. “For me going first, it was definitely a different perspective. It was hard to see her swimming and it coming down to the wire. It is amazing.”
Holy Redeemer sophomore Margaret Walting established new pool and district records in the 100 breast. Her time of 1:04.05 took down a six-year old record by 18-hundredths of a second. As icing on the cake, it was her first individual district gold medal.
“It’s nice to know that all of the hard work pays off, even if it might seem insignificant at times,” Walting said. “I swam that race so many times — once you get that pace, just keep going.”
The Dallas boys’ ascent up the team standings was largely in part to four straight first-place finishes to close the meet. The three individual winners — Shane Szczecinski, Ryan Spears and Mikail Krochta — teamed up with Caravaggio for an all-seniors 400 free relay that won in 3:19.23.
Szczecinski trimmed 12 seconds off of his seed time to finish in five minutes flat in the 500 free. He handily beat favorite Conor McCall, of Scranton Prep, by more than 10 seconds.
“Five minutes flat is very aesthetically pleasing,” Szczecinski said. “For the first 200, I could feel every second of it. It was me and McCall the whole way. But, after that, I started taking off.”
Spears was the third seed heading into the 100 breast race. He came off the starting block in full force, gathering a lead of more than a second through 50 yards. Spears finished with a 1:01.64 for first place.
“I am so happy — I can’t even explain,” Spears said. “I have been sick over the summer, so coming back and shaving 2.5 seconds off of my 100 is so awesome. I am just glad to have done it for my senior year.”
Mikail Krochta walked out of the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center with three district gold medals around his neck for championships. He recorded his second individual first place, winning the 100 back in 53.86 seconds. His victory sealed the Mountaineers’ team title.
Dallas garnered its first win of the afternoon when Leonard won the girls 500 free in 5:12.7. Leonard trailed throughout most of the race but jetted past Scranton Prep’s Corinne McCall in the final 50 yards. She completed districts with three first place swims.
“In the last 100, I knew I could win,” Leonard said. “I was with this girl next to me. I knew I could just swim and get it done. All I had to do was focus on what I was swimming. I felt very confident while I was swimming.”
Wyoming Seminary freshman Skylar Roerig outpaced eight-time district individual winner Cheshire in the 100 free. Roerig won with a time of 52.05 seconds, beating her Dallas counterpart by 17-hundredths of a second.
“I went all-out the whole time,” Roerig said. “Don’t slow down. And try not to groove. I honestly had to look at the scoreboard to believe.”
After his team was disqualified in the 200 free relay on Saturday, Alex Bushre turned things around for Tunkhannock by winning the 100 free in 49.09 seconds. The Tigers took three of the top four spots with a silver from Davis Tidball and a fourth-place swim by Dylan Mislevy to leapfrog back into the lead following Monday’s first race.
“It definitely feels a lot better,” Bushre said. “I knew we had to do what we practiced. It was all turns, technique. Don’t screw up. The whole team has worked hard not to make mistakes.”
The top two finishers earn seeds to the PIAA Championships next week at Bucknell University.
Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLsports