Tuesday night’s Radnor-Haverford meet ended too late for me to cover or to get in Wednesday’s print edition. We got a recap in Thursday’s paper (here are the boys and girls write-ups), but the meeting of arguably – yes, I hear you, Strath Haven lobby – the two best Central League teams in Delco is worth a bit more. Plus, a quick 200-word description of the winners doesn’t quite capture the essence of this meet, one that was decided by tiny margins between the A and B swimmers.
Since the boys meet, a 98-88 win for Radnor, was closer, let’s start there.
The biggest takeaway from the Radnor side is its amazing stroke depth. Over the 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke, the Raiders outscored the Fords 35-13. (Plus, the edge was 10-6 in the 200 individual medley.)
The wins seemed strategically placed for every time Haverford got close. When a 1-2 finish in diving from Haverford’s Steve Szathmary and Will Canny brought the Fords even at 39, Eli Avart (in a very fast 1:01.11, good for a District One auto cut) and Jeremy Pedersen answered with a 1-2 finish.
Haverford got even again at 63 after winning the 200 free relay in 1:41.75, another auto cut (remember: the Haverford School pool is meters). But a stacked 100 back promptly answered for the Raiders with Avart winning and Ryan Freedman outtouching Brendan Ryan by .07 seconds for second, all three recording district auto cuts. Steve Giannella was just a bit off the pace in fourth.
Then Radnor cashed in a massive advantage in breast. Mitchell Gartland (1:10.47) coasted to the win, but the real race was for second. Keenen Doyle (1:14.04) and Eun Soo Park (1:14.25) got there just a hair ahead of Haverford’s Zack Nelson (1:14.56) to book a 1-2-3 finish.
The flipside of Radnor’s stroke strength is some vulnerability in freestyle, which Haverford exploited. The Fords won both free relays (and their A medley squad squeaked through the plans of Radnor to split things up, with Gartland dropped to the B team in search of first and second).
All-Delco Connor Hart did what he needed to in the distance events, outpacing Tim Caulfield in the 200 free, both turning in auto cuts, and then held on for first in the 400, dragging teammate James Turley up for a key 1-2 finish that knotted matters at 63.
Caulfield got the better of Steve Cassel and Rob Keehn in the 100 free, but Cassel was fastest in the 50 over Brian McKeon. What Radnor needs moving forward isn’t necessarily wins, but at least damage control in freestyle. When they go up against the likes of Conestoga and Haven, they need to avoid finishes like McKeon’s fourth in the 100 and Freedman’s fifth in the 50.
On the girls side, Haverford’s depth was just too much in a 100-86 win. But it all starts with Maddie Hart.
You’d expect the All-Delco to go toe-to-toe with Tatyana Smolyansky in their overlapping specialty, the 100 back. (Hart won in 1:05.63, though both turned in auto cuts; a closer race was Elizabeth Verzella edging Sasha Smolyansky for third by .47 seconds.)
But what may not have been expected was Hart trying the 400 free, which she won in 4:39.89 to prevent Laura Packer and Tatyana Smolyansky from a 1-2 finish. Hart has such versatility that it must be so difficult to plan for her. It’s also a huge ask for her to do the 400/100 back double.
Haverford’s win also had a lot to do with freshman Ilira Zherka stepping up. She’s impressed with her times this season, and it sounds like Tuesday she showed off her ability to just plain race. It was too much to expect her beat Packer in the 200 free, but Zherka got her hand to the wall ahead of Sasha Smolyansky for second. She then managed to top Heather McShea in the 100 free in what could’ve been a big point steal for the Raiders. Verzella also came up big by edging Evie Cai (winner of the 100 breast) in the 200 IM.
For Radnor, Emily Moyher stealing the 50 free from Emily Wolfe and Candace Brown was a big point swing, though she couldn’t break the Wolfe-Kelly Devlin 1-2 in the 100 fly. Radnor also netted big points courtesy of a Nicole Cohen-led 1-2-3 in diving.