Upper Perk's 200 yard medley relay team took third place at states. Left to right: Quinn Perlstein, Brandon Umstead, Kyle Himmelwright and Mason Cassel. The foursome also set a new school record for the event of 1:38.64.
The same numbers turned out to be a lot more for the Upper Perk High School boys swim team at the PIAA Class AA swimming championships at Bucknell University last week. Led by Mason Cassel, the Tribe’s seven swimmers, the same number the team used in states last year, jumped from a 14th place finish in 2012 to fifth place this season.
Cassel came away with medals in the four events he swam, including a fourth-place finish in the 100 butterfly. He broke his own school record with a time of 51.26, improving on last year’s fifth in the event.
The senior, who will be swimming at Division I Marist next year, also swam on three relays that scored medals.
“Mason once again stood out at this meet. This was a wonderful finale to his outstanding high school career,” said first -ear head coach Jessica Smith.
The 200 medley relay composed of Kyle Himmelwright, Quinn Perlstein, Cassel and Brandon Umstead, took home a bronze with a school record 1:38.64.
Another school record was set in the 400 free relay by the team of Cassel, Himmelwright, Jason Mercando,and freshman Hunter Peck as they blazed home in 3:16.27 to finish fifth.
The 200 free relay of Himmelwright, Bryon Scholl, Perlstein and Cassel won a sixth place medal in 1:29.89. The 200 had not qualified for the finals last year.
“Altogether the team did really real,” noted Cassel. “We all did the times we needed to do.”
“These boys worked very well together as a team and every member of our seven-guy team returned home with a medal,” exulted Smith.
Himmelwright was 15th in the 50 free but swam a personal best (22.21).
“Another great end to an outstanding high school career,” said Smith.
Perlstein was 27th in the 100 breaststroke and Umstead, a sophomore, was 28th in the 200 individual medley and 29th in the backstroke.
“It was definitely a great way to end my senior season,” Perlstein said of the team’s performance. “To go out and leave a legacy behind, and leave some records, and make history for Upper Perk, it was very exciting, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
After losing six swimmers and head coach Missy Peart from last year’s championship team, there were some early doubts about how far Upper Perk could go as a team this year. But as the season progressed, confidence grew.
“It was different, because we lost a lot of seniors and therefore a lot of depth that we had last year. We figured it would set us back some, but at the same time, we also had a couple of good underclassmen that really stepped up this year, such as Brandon and Hunter. It actually worked out for the better,’’ Perlstein noted.
Smith’s tenure as an assistant to Peart also benefitted the team.
“We had a lot of talent and experience on our team. We basically stuck to the program that was successful for us the year before, but made some tweaks like focusing on distance training for some swimmers and ‘turning up the volume’ earlier in the season with the hope that the effect of tapering would be even stronger,” Smith said.
All of the swimmers responded with peak performances at the right time of the season. Umstead was an example.
“I started feeling really good tapering for districts, and then, when I went into districts and I had all my best times in each event, I just felt perfect.”
Two big intangibles in the success of the season were the combined wisdom and guidance of Smith, assistant Kyle Kuser, Peart, and, another former head coach, Michael Tannous, and the closeness of the team.
“The best part was being there with everybody who was there,” said Umstead. ”Everybody on the team gets along perfect. It’s just like one big family.”
“It was a pleasure to coach these student athletes this year. All of them are dedicated and respectful,” Smith said.