Houtz sets personal record in butterfly, looks forward to day 2

LEWISBURG — If there were any jitters about performing at the state championships, Juniata freshman Sydney Houtz did not show it.

Houtz placed 12th in the 100-yard butterfly at the PIAA Class 2A swimming and diving championships Thursday at Bucknell University, finishing in 58.63 seconds — a personal best.

Houtz — seeded 21st in the state — got off to a great start. She finished the first 50 yards ahead of the pack in 27.13. Then in the next 50, she fell behind and placed third.

“I always seem to lose it at the last 50,” Houtz said. “That was kind of disappointing, but it’s a new (personal record) so that’s pretty good.”

Dallas’ Abby Zolner and Wyoming Seminary’s Haley Thier found enough wiggle room to take first and second in the heat, placing 10th and 11th respectively.

The second half falling was by the slimmest of margins as Houtz was .05 seconds away from winning the second of four heats and finishing 10th overall in the event.

That’s the nature of the beast, and Houtz’ mother and coach Amy is well aware of that.

“I think she stuck with it until the very end,” she said. “The top three finishers of her heat finished within four hundreds of a second from one another, and came down to the touch. I think she held it, and it’s all about the tempo. You don’t want to exhaust yourself in the first 50, but you don’t want to fall behind, and have a big catch up in the second 50. She’s been working on that the last couple of months.”

Sydney docked nearly a second off of her seeding time of 59.43.

The result given was more than what both Sydney and Amy could have imagined, and both are excited to see the event out.

Thursday, though, was all about Sydney enjoying herself and getting accustomed to both the pool itself and the atmosphere at Bucknell swimming in pivotal races.

“We’ve done a lot of big meets, and I think coming to all these meets has helped her know what she has to do,” Amy said. “She was just into the meet, just hanging out which is great. To come to an enviroment like this with super high stress and be able to be laid back and enjoy it, and still swim well, I was really pleased.”

As for Sydney, the nerves were present leading up to the big day.

“For a while, I was really really nervous because you get to see all these big shot people coming in that I’ve swam against before, and they do really really badly,” she said. “That was a little nerve wrecking for me, but I’m really happy with how I did so that killed my nerves a bit.”

The experience of getting to race Thursday just adds to Houtz being more relaxed for her second day at states.

“The main reason why I’ve wanted to do an event before the backstroke was so that I have something to kind of buffer off of,” she said.

She jokingly stated that she is excited to sleep and calm the rest of her nerves down before her second day at the state championships.

Houtz’ main event is the 100 backstroke, and she is slated to swim that today. She is seeded fifth overall in the event, and will be part of the race’s fourth and final heat.

Because of winter storm Stella taking a day of state swimming away, the PIAA had decided to take away preliminary swims. All 32 qualifiers will swim in four heats, with the top eight receiving medals.

That’s something Houtz says makes the competition more exciting.

“I kind of like how people are thrown right into it,” Houtz said. “That helps us see people’s raw talent. … This throws things off some, and now we see how hard they’ve worked.”