Girls Swimming: On Episcopal Academy, Germantown Academy and coin flips

“By my best reckoning … I have GA claiming a 102-84 win under the best-case scenarios.”

Swimming is usually pretty straightforward. A swimmer is a 54-second 100 freestyler or 1:56 200 freestyler, and that’s just what they are. Sometimes during the dual-meet season, there’s wiggle room: There’s the race, and there’s a whole new factor, the re-entry of a little unpredictability in a usually definite world.

When two teams as strong as Germantown Academy and Episcopal Academy get together, races are inevitable. What wasn’t as definite was the way their girls meet, easily one of the fastest in the country this year, turned out Monday.

Let’s be clear: It would’ve taken a phenomenal effort for Episcopal Academy to win, as evidenced by the final score of 122-64. I think a District One all-star team would struggle against GA, such is its depth and versatility. But the nature of swimming scoring means that every point you score is one your opponent doesn’t, so things can get tight very quickly. And just a couple changes here and there, a little added pressure on GA in the relays, a little momentum surging early, who knows what can happen? Maybe it’s not a win for EA, under any circumstances but a complete self-destruction by the Patriots, but the result could’ve held a different tenor. And as good as this GA team is shaping up to be, staying close is an accomplishment.

The final score Monday was 122-64. I count a total of 20 points decided by small margins (i.e. under a second) that went GA’s way each time. Take 20 points from GA’s total and add them to EA’s, and you’ve got the score predicted in the quote above. It’s not to make excuses for EA—I’d actually argue the opposite, that it’s impressive on GA’s part that they were able to get their hands on the wall so efficiently—but to try and quantify the difference.

Self-aggrandizement aside, it was astonishing to see each and every toss-up go the way of Germantown Academy, or so it seemed.

EA had the opportunity to start quickly and take an early lead—even if a certain symbolism and confidence was all the endured – with the medley relay, and the fact that diving came first gave them an opportunity to accentuate that. Though Kara Madey won diving, GA won the event 9-7, Christie Schlarbaum less than five points out of fourth place. That’s a two-point swing.

EA’s loss in the medley relay, a race in which they trailed by just .21 seconds after 150 yards but where Tara O’Prey had no answer for Meagan Dollard’s 23.66-second anchor leg, was a jarring surprise. Plus the B-relay battle went GA’s way by .02 seconds. The Churchmen could’ve led 18-12; instead, they trailed 19-11. That’s a seven-point swing.

Bernadette Tankle, tasked with the thankless assignment of trying to carve out points in GA’s bread-and-butter distance events, was within a second of overtaking Emily Erwin for second in the 200 free, another two-point swing for GA. The Patriots loaded the 200 IM instead of the 200 free, and took 1-2-3, thanks to Hayli Randolph outtouching McKenzie Street by .15 seconds. O’Prey looked to have a win in the 50, only for Shannon McKernan to steal a win by three tenths, while Emily Smith edged Rachel Farmer for fourth.

The 100 fly was the back-breaker. Emily Rhodes looked ticketed for a win to start a stroke-heavy back half of the meet that is EA’s strong point; instead she faded to third behind Carolyn Yang and Natalie Dowzicky. That’s seven swims, 16 points up for grabs decided by 2.58 seconds, an average of three tenths per race. That’s close.

It’s with full sincerity that EA senior Rachel Repke can find positives in her team’s performance, even if the final score was so lopsided and the sting of missing a chance to beat their archrival is fresh.

“It’s really difficult, but it’s also inspiring,” the senior All-Delco said. “We’ve been working so hard, and our girls are so tired. We just got out of exams, but we put our heart into this and we wanted to do the best we can. It just shows that we have work to do, but we can get there. We can definitely be on par with GA.”

It’s hard to expect EA to make up all the ground on GA at a meet like Easterns, where GA can enter four scorers instead of three and the point system greater rewards A-final swims. But on a different day, the gap could be a lot closer.

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