Shackleton makes big splash at District 11 Swimming Championships
Northwestern High School may not have a swimming team, but that doesn't mean the area can't produce the top talent when it comes to District 11 swimming.
Two years after Northwestern representative Madison Burns dominated two races at the district meet, sophomore Trey Shackleton was equally impressive in black and gold, bursting on to the scene by setting a pair of district records to capture gold medals in each of his swims.
"It's kind of cool," Shackleton said. "I always say we have the best team per capita because we have pretty good swimmers with just the two of us together.
"I knew Madison. She was on the same club team as me and it's really cool to be able to carry on that legacy. It's a small school, so we have that underdog mentality."
Shackleton, who attends PA Cyber School and lives in Hynemansville, swam two completely different races to write his name in the record books in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles.
On Friday night, he was in come-from-behind mode in the 200 free, sitting in fourth place after 100 yards and third after 150.
But his final kick over the race's last 50 meters was enough to not only win the race, but drop a full two seconds off the district record set by Saucon Valley's Zach Oatis in 2011. Shackleton finished the race in 1:43.60. Southern Lehigh duo Josh Kreider and Michael Anderson were second and third, respectively.
"I felt like I was actually going pretty slow until the last 50," Shackelton said. "I really started pushing it there and I saw at the wall that I was almost half a body length behind. That's when I knew I had to have a fast last split to bring me back."
When Shackleton hit the wall with 50 meters left, he was nearly a full second behind Kreider. But he closed the gap and made a strong turn with 25 yards to go. Of the top four swimmers in the race, Shackleton was the only one to break 27 seconds in the final 50, which he swam in a blistering 26.06 seconds.
"At the end of the race I really just kind of dug in and did my best to pass him," Shackleton said. "I swim a lot of big meets with big competition. I'm used to it being fast, but not quite that fast."
Shackleton didn't face much competition in his swim to gold in Saturday's 500 free, his preferred of the two races.
Rather than using a late final kick to overcome the field, he used it to lower another district record set by Oatis in 2011 by almost two seconds. Shackleton didn't have a 50 split over 30 seconds to swim his 4:41.90 time. His 26.8 seconds in the final 50 was his second-fastest of the 10 splits.
"I like long events where I can take my time and make sure that I'm on pace," Shackleton said. "I don't have to worry about what other people are doing and just am able to swim my own race."
Other top swimmers took notice of the performance that Shackleton put on. Salisbury senior Eric Tatum, who won his second straight Dennis A. McGinley Award for the meet's top swimmer, was surprised to take the honor over the sophomore phenom.
"The way I looked at it, I thought his times were better than mine," Tatum said. "I know that it's scored based on times and I thought his times were more impressive. He swum amazingly and I thought he had me beat."
Shackleton will now take his talents to Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium for the PIAA Championships on March 13-14. Despite his record-setting times, he saved his full taper for the state meet and expects to contend for more gold there.
His 200 time from districts is just 18 hundredths of a second slower than the state title-winning time in 2012. His 500 time would have earned him a state bronze a year ago. Both those times figure to drop with added rest over the next week. Shackleton has the third-fastest seed times in both events.
"I was looking at state times from last year and I know there's going to be a couple of kids that are real fast," Shackleton said. "My goal is definitely in the 500 to win. And in the 200, to do as well as I possibly can and maybe be able to even win that as well."