By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
The first time Mifflinburg junior Arianna Grabski jumped in the pool, she had no idea what was in store.
“My very first meet, I jumped in and I did the doggy paddle,” Grabski said. “I had no idea (what I could accomplish in swimming).”
Wednesday evening at McKinney Natatorium, Grabski replaced one of the great names in PIAA swimming history in the record book — Bloomsburg’s Stef Williams — winning her third PIAA gold medal, this time in the 200-yard freestyle.
Grabski swam a 1:47.05, breaking Williams record of 1:47.37 set in 1998.
Grabski, who won the 50-freestyle and 100-freestyle gold medals last year, was the top seed for Tuesday’s final, but expected to be pushed by sophomore Lauren Barber of District 10 Wilmington, the only swimmer within a second of Grabski’s morning prelim time.
“For sure, I knew she was going to be my main competition,” Grabski said. “I knew she would be the one that pushed me.”
The Union County swimmer led from the start of the race in lane four, but had a clear shot of Barber on her shoulder in lane five. Barber stayed close, finishing five-tenths of a second off PIAA-record pace.
However, Grabski was just a bit faster, and when her hand touched the wall her mouth opened in shock as she realized she broke Williams’ record.
“I didn’t know what I had in me,” Grabski said. “I didn’t have a time set (as a goal). I certainly wasn’t expecting that. I was very, very surprised.”
Grabski then received another surprise a little bit after the race. One of the Central Columbia swimmers let Grabski know Williams was in the stands and saw Grabski break the record.
The mild-mannered Grabski couldn’t help herself and let out a scream of excitement.
“She’s a big name around in swimming around here. I know her whole swimming story,” Grabski said. “She got a free ride to Georgia and she (is) an assistant coach at Georgia. She definitely has a great swimming story. She certainly had the kind of (swimming) career I would like.”
Grabski has a chance to claim another gold medal this year. She will race in the 100 freestyle later today.
Emily Maxwell of Lewisburg finished 12th in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:56.46.
Another Lewisburg swimmer, Caitlyn Foley, finished ninth in the 200 individual medley, winning the consolation race in 2:10.73.
Shamokin diver Ciana Rollman finished 14th with 301 points.