Boys 200 freestyle relay breaks record, advances to state championships

ERIE — It was a record day in the pool Friday at the District 10 Class AA Championships for the Titusville boys swim team.

The boys 200 freestyle relay team entered the district tournament in the top seed  and did not disappoint. They proved their worthiness of that rank as the team composed of JJ Bleday, Devon Pettit, Josiah Leach and Adam Bleday finished with a Titusville High School record time of 1:28.61 — beating rival Franklin, who was slotted in a lane directly beside them. Franklin would finish with a 1:29.9.

The previous record was set in 2010 by the team of Seth Come, Alex Furlan, Jim Patison and Adam Bleday (who was a freshman at the time). That record was 1:29.52 — nearly a full second behind what this team was able to accomplish.

And, it wasn’t just the team that achieved a record time. All four of the swimmers set personal best marks.

JJ jumped Titusville into the lead when he hit the pool first for the relay, swimming his leg in 21.87 seconds.

JJ “did fantastic,” said Titusville boys swim coach Kevin Dawson. “It’s the first time he’s ever split 21 seconds. He got us a body-length ahead of Franklin to start us off.”

The rest of the relay squad followed his lead in impressive form.

Pettit’s personal best was set on his portion of the race, tapping the wall at 22.94. Leach flew through the water at a time of 22.24. And, the senior veteran, and part of the previous record-holding relay team, Adam Bleday, finished off the record relay with his own personal best of 21.56.

“I think it all comes down to the work they put into the season,” said Dawson. “Going into this meet with a little bit of rest” was part of the key, the coach said. “Plus, with Franklin right beside them, kind of fueled the fire.”

Dawson said this came from a friendly rivalry between the two closely located schools that has developed over the past few years.

With the win, the boys 200 freestyle relay team advanced to the state championships, which will be held at Bucknell University, March 13-14.

Adam Bleday didn’t stop there either.

In the boys 50 freestyle, Titusville sent Adam, JJ, Leach and Seth Mehlenbacher to the blocks.

Three of those four would wind up on the podium at day’s end, earning a medal each.

The brothers Bleday swam side-by-side in this event, and would later stand side-by-side on the podium. Adam finished second overall — earning his a spot in this event at the state championships, with a time of 21.86, while JJ took third, touching the wall at nearly the same instant at 22.15. Leach was solid for Titusville, picking up the sixth position on the podium, with his time 22.9. Mehlenbacher’s final time was 24.46, coming in at the 19th position.

In the 100 butterfly, Pettit would again find a medal around his neck, after his success with the 200 freestyle relay team. He held on for the fifth spot in this event.

In the boys 200 medley relay, Titusville would finish 10th overall. The four locals making the trip to Erie for this event were Logan Sines, Mac Coat, Austin Deeter and Mehlenbacher. Their time was 1:57.57.

The top two athletes in each event immediately earn a trip to Bucknell for states, while the top 16 times for each event in the overall district will also advance. These swimmers will not know if they have made it until all the results are in Sunday. An anxious wait for a group of swimmers that have worked all season for this chance.

A recap of the girls weekend at the District Tournament will appear in Monday’s edition of The Herald.

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