Swimming: Easterns odds and ends

It’s taken a little while to recover from the thriller that was the 113th edition of the Eastern Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships Friday and Saturday – my ears only stopped ringing about an hour ago.

So since there’s only so much space in the paper, let me wrap up a few things I didn’t get to touch on enough of, both in and out of Delco.

Haverford School's Matt Haigh came up big in the 500 free, setting the fastest time in the county this season and finishing 10th overall at Easterns this weekend.

Haverford School’s Matt Haigh came up big in the 500 free, setting the fastest time in the county this season and finishing 10th overall at Easterns last weekend. (Times Staff/JULIA WILKINSON)

– Of all the head-spinning moments Saturday night at La Salle, the hysteria started in the 100 backstroke when Episcopal Academy went 1-2-3. That’s just something that teams other than Germantown Academy and Peddie School (in its heydeys) just don’t do. There’s an eighth-grader in Emma Seiberlich with the audacity to almost re-write the record books with her crazy time of 55.88; she absolutely controlled the final heat from start to finish in winning by more than a body length. In eighth grade! There’s Emily Rhodes ability to bring the outside smoke and get her hand on the wall quickly in the last 50 to take second, the same placing as in her signature event, the 100 fly, the night before in which she bettered her Delco record. And Sarah Baturka turned in a very fast swim that were it not for her two teammates would’ve easily been the fastest in the county all season.

– I can’t express how impressive a diver Josh Owsiany is. Forget that he won Easterns for a third straight time before his sophomore year in high school is over. He did it this week by essentially spotting the field a dive, scoring just 18 points on an over-rotated belly flop of a reverse two-and-a-half in round eight. Perhaps the biggest testament to his ability came after competition was over: Having become somewhat of a crowd favorite given the attention-grabbing splat and subsequent recovery to win, Owsiany took to the three-meter board for a celebratory dive and landed one with such natural and perfect ease that it drew a round of applause from a half-attentive crowd dispersing before the evening session. Yeah, he’s that good.

– When it comes to the Haverford School, there’s no end to the positive things you can say about the performance of Jimmy Jameson and Dan McGrath. Jameson took second in each of his individual events, becoming one of only a handful of Delco high school boys to break 50 seconds in the 100 fly and almost chasing down Patrick Park of the Peddie School in a 100 free (45.93) that he would’ve won had it been a 105-yard free. His anchor leg off the 400 free relay of 44.90 – or as it was known on deck, “44-point-freaking-90” – was the third fastest in the A final, a final in which the meet record was overtaken (more on that later), and a fitting culmination for a storied career. McGrath’s swim in the 100 breaststroke, going 59.05 to shave almost a second from his prelim time and bump up a spot to fifth was extremely impressive.

– In the equation of how the Fords got to fifth, just the second top-six Easterns finish in program history, Jameson and McGrath played starring roles. But they’re not there if not for big swims by guys under the radar. Take freshman Matt Haigh, beating swimmers that looked to be a foot taller, going 4:41 in the final of the 500 free to take 10th. Or middle-schooler Alex Boratto sneaking into the 100 back C final in 18th and then forcing his way up to 15th. Oh yeah, and they did it all without head coach Sean Hansen, who was kept away from the pool after the birth of his daughter. Kudos to assistant Brendan Jones for holding down the fort.

– On the relay front, the Episcopal Academy’s 200 medley relay team of Baturka, Rachel Repke, Rhodes and Tara O’Prey went 1:44.47, over two seconds under the automatic All-American cut. They just missed the All-American cut in the 400 free relay by just over two tenths, but the team of Seiberlich, Baturka, Bernadette Tankle and O’Prey lowered the county record by just under four seconds to 3:30.36. The time on the Haverford School 400 free relay was within a second of the county record and less than two seconds from the All-American cut.

– To say that bright things are on the horizon for Notre Dame swimming is an understatement. Marie Cattie is reaping the benefits of a couple of strong middle school teams, and the indications are that the pipeline won’t run dry anytime soon. Sophomore Megan Burns (10th in the 200 free, 13th in the 100 fly) and freshman Kaitlin Perni (eighth in both the 50 and 100 free) have many bright days ahead of them.

– As I said in my preview, I wasn’t surprised to see EA’s Ben Baturka make a big jump in the 100 backstroke standings. But the historical perspective on his time is staggering. At age 14, his time of 51.71 seconds is faster than Matt Grevers, the London Olympic gold medalist in the 100 back, at the same age. Next on the docket: A shot at Aaron Peirsol’s time of 51.49 at Junior Nationals before he bumps up an age group in May.

– It got overshadowed by the heroics later in the evening, but there was a phenomenal race in the 100 free between Baldwin School and Suburban Swim Club’s Val Yoshimura and Germantown Academy’s Shannon McKernan. Yoshimura entered as the top seed, but McKernan edged her out, 50.16 to 50.18. They were neck and neck the whole way.

– I can’t believe I’ve gotten this far without mentioning the relay hysteria that closed the meet. I still haven’t really comprehended the meaning of the 3:21.63 blazed by Germantown Academy’s girls team. That’s the fastest time ever in high school history. The splits are unreal: McKernan (49.93), Meagan Dollard (50.35), Madison Visco (51.22) and Rachel Zilinskas (50.13). (By comparison, the fastest 100 free in Delco history from a flat start is 52.02, and that dates from 1988.) McKernan is the understated hero of the group, but Zilinskas gets the attention for bringing the hammer on the anchor leg to close the deal. The Georgia-bound senior – frighteningly the only upperclassmen of the bunch – was visibly disappointed after coasting to victory in the 500 free by almost a pool length, albeit in a time slower than the one with which she won a year ago. That she was able to end one of the most storied high school careers in the history of GA on such a high note was a nice moment.

– Speaking of nuts splits, the meet ended with Peddie School of New Jersey, the boys overall champions, tied the meet record in the 400 free to close the meet, and exhilarating and apropos moment. The team of Park (45.56), Bradley Cline (44.56), Joshua Daniel (45.59) and Michael Nunan (44.27) were just unreal to get under the hallowed three-minute mark and tie a meet record set in 1991.

– Lost in the insanity – and goodness knows there was plenty of it – was the other storyline of the boys 400 free relay. Malvern Prep and Loyola Blakefield entered the final relay separated by a scant point over almost 300 in the team standings. Their seed times were separated by just over a second and a half. But the Malvern Prep team of Erik Dresden, Billy Beard, Chris Cary and the aptly named MP Salinas developed an All-American time of 3:06.82 to take second in the relay and the big second-place cup for the team standings. Cary (45.59 seconds) and Salinas (45.91 on the anchor) were the stars who came up big at the biggest moment.

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