LEWISBURG — “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
The line made famous by the late Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige seemed appropriate to Abby Doss’ latest gold-medal conquest at the PIAA Class 2A Swimming and Diving Championships.
The Shamokin Area junior won her second consecutive state championship Wednesday night in the 200 individual medley at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium, but first she gave her competitors a bit of what turned out to be false hope.
Doss trailed through the first two strokes — the butterfly and the backstroke — then shot into the lead in the breast stroke and left everyone in her wake as she seemingly flew to the finish line in the freestyle portion of the event, winning in 2 minutes, 1.39 seconds.
She had the fastest preliminary time, at 2:04.61.
“I’m not really a flyer so the first half is kind of like a struggle. I try to stay with the pack during that period of time. I’m more of a backstroker, so I was trying to build into my breast stroke and by the time I got to the breast I knew I had to hammer those two –
the breast stroke and the freestyle,” she said.
She doesn’t worry about trailing early because, “It’s how I trained (knowing) you’re gonna be behind, you just have to get used to it, you just have to slam the back half or you’re not going to do well.”
Shamokin Area coach Jess Wolfgang was just as confident as she watched her swimmer trailing in the early stages.
“I wasn’t afraid at all when I saw she wasn’t in the lead at first, because I knew she was going to pull away at the end,” Wolfgang said.
Doss will complete her season tonight when she tries to win her third consecutive gold medal in the 500 freestyle.
Doss was joined on the medals stand Wednesday by her sophomore sister, Gabby, who finished seventh in the 100 fly in 58.3 seconds. The Indians’ 200 free relay team finished 20th in the morning preliminaries and didn’t qualify for the finals.
Abby said she was more focused on personal improvement and was looking to get under 2 minutes but was happy because to place is a good achievement.
Doss said she felt some pressure and noted that friends at school were telling her “you better win” and “I think they were joking, but then I’m like ‘Oh (maybe not). So, I figured I was just going to have to hammer, but the girls are so good around me.”
Gabby, who finished also seventh in the fly as a freshman, said of Wednesday night’s finals, “It was very familiar from last year, but I’m happy I moved up (from her eighth seed in the finals).”
She dropped her time but felt she could have swum faster, but, she added, “I’m happy because I did my best. I wanted to do a 57, but I’m happy. You get what you get.”
Gabby said she found it a challenge in having to swim outside lanes (lane one in the preliminaries and lane eight in the finals).
“Because I was in an end lane, there was a drift going down and then a push going back, so you get a lot of waves in one direction, so it was a hard transition between those two,” she said.
“But I did like swimming it,” she said, noting that she was able to see the other swimmers around her to see if they were behind or ahead of her.
Wolfgang said, “Being in the end lanes is not always the beset, but she still did well, and she beat her seed times 59.03 from districts and 58.12 in the prelim), so she has progressed and that was great.”
Gabby said she is used to big meets, but she does get nervous.
“You just have to use it to your best ability and instead of being nervous, you’re excited,” Gabby said.
She is excited about today’s 100 breast stroke competition.
“Breast stroke has a lot more competition that go faster, but, at the same time, it’s one of my best events,” she said.
Wolfgang was proud of the relay team, consisting of the Doss sisters, junior Madison Bridy and senior Morgan McGinn.
“They worked hard all season long and came in 27th out of 32 teams and the finished 20th, so we couldn’t be more happy,” she said.
Wolfgang added that having five athletes make it to the state meet this year was the most for the school in a while.
Abby added, “It was Morgan’s and Maddy’s first time and it was a little overwhelming for them. I’m used to this, they’re not but just for them to be competing here is amazing. They adapted well.”
In addition to the Dosses, today will also see the fifth member of the team, Quinn Rollman, compete in the Class 2A one-meter dive. The senior is making his fourth appearance in the state meet and was the silver medalist a year ago.
Diving is scheduled for 3 p.m. and swimming at 10:50 a.m. (preliminaries) and 6:25 p.m. (consolations and finals).