Just shy of 8:30 p.m. Saturday, the final last-chance relays wrapped up at the Central League Championships at Radnor High School. A meet that started over 10 hours earlier, encompassing 100-some-odd heats across boys and girls competitions, is difficult to summarize in just a few hundred words. I did my best, hitting the highlights – which included the Strath Haven relays, a couple of freshmen whose names you should learn and the triumph of Brendan Ryan over injury. But there’s plenty more to discuss. A few quick hitters:
– Two rather astonishing statistics, one from each side of the draw. Ladies first: No upperclassman from a Delco school won an event. Of the eight individual events, four were won by Conestoga, two by Strath Haven freshman Summer Martin and two by Ridley freshman Gab Rudy. Even the only victorious Delco relay, the Strath Haven 200 freestyle, was half composed of freshmen (Martin and Camille Jablonski).
– Now the boys stunner: Scoring the meet as you would districts (individuals 1-16, relays 1-12), Radnor would’ve scored more points than Conestoga, per the Meet Manager printout. And not by a little, but by a margin of 422-372. That’s not even including diving, where Radnor would have a marked advantage over the Pioneers. It’s a testament to the depth of Radnor, which didn’t get a great day from its frontline stars (like Mitchell Gartland, who settled for second in the 100 breaststroke and sixth in the 200 individual medley).
– It’s a little odd to cover a meet where Haverford’s Maddie Hart doesn’t win something. But you can’t really blame the All-Delco sophomore Saturday. She finished second in the 100 butterfly, .35 seconds off the meet record in 57.81. Only problem was that Conestoga’s Abby Mack downed that record, going 57.37. Then in the 100 back, both Hart and Conestoga’s Nikki Bookwalter were under Beth Grube’s 17-year-old record. But Bookwalter was faster, 58.60 to 59.03.
– It wasn’t the most illustrious of days for the Radnor girls, but it at least ended with a silver lining, literally. Individually, only five Raiders collected top-six finishes, and none higher than fourth. Laura Packer, who entered seeded first in the 100 and 200 frees, wasn’t among them. Some of their biggest swims were from surprising faces, like Heather McShea cutting over a second to earn a districts auto cut and fourth in the 100 free and Emma Deitz hacking over seven seconds off to take sixth in the 500. The Raiders finished on a high note, the 400 free relay of Lucy Fulton, Tatyana Smolyansky, McShea and Packer going from the fourth seed to second. They clocked in at 3:40.68, a districts auto cut.
– Speaking of auto district cuts in relays, nine relays entered without cuts and left with them, five on the boys side. The girls qualifiers were Garnet Valley’s medley relay, Conestoga’s 200 free and Ridley’s 200 free. For the boys, Garnet Valley and Haverford each automatically qualified medley relays, Strath Haven and Upper Darby entered 200 frees to the field and Haverford’s 400 free booked a ticket.
– A couple of intriguing swimmers from Haverford to keep an eye on: Freshman Cassandra Reed has suffered through injuries all season, but she turned in a time of 1:09.94 in the 100 breast to take fifth and cut over two seconds off her best time. Her time was faster than teammate Devon Shaw and within a half second of Annie O’Brien. Reed’s time drop was reminiscent of what classmate Matt Phillips did, dropping over five seconds in the 200 IM.
– In only two of the 22 events did a swimmer (or relay) from outside the final two heats spring a surprise and post a top-six time. (By comparison, four events – three of them boys – saw the top six places monopolized by the final heat.) The top top-six interlopers: Upper Darby’s Siobhan McDonough, who chopped over 15 seconds from her 500 time to take fourth, and Strath Haven’s Andrew Restrepo, who was seeded 13th but dropped 4.2 seconds to take fifth in the 100 breast.
– There were a couple of interesting distance swims on the boys side. Andrew Karsh of Upper Darby trimmed 3.5 seconds off his 200 free to take fourth, and Springfield’s Wil Seifried cut five seconds to a 5:01.43 that was good for fourth.
– Centrals is necessarily focused on the kids at the top end of the standings. But for the majority of swimmers, it’s about improving on their bests. So a few swims that stood out to me in that regard: Haverford’s Dan Lawrey went from a 1:57 to 1:52 in the 200 free. Ridley’s Donnie Taziole dropped three seconds in the 100 back to 56.26. Strath Haven’s Ben Wolters dropped 3.42 seconds off his 100 breast to take sixth. In the girls 200 free, Radnor freshman Tiffany Chou chopped almost six seconds to 2:07.51, while Garnet Valley’s Nina Gambacorta shaved almost 10 seconds in her swim. Springfield’s Kristin Roberts-O’Brien trimmed 3.23 seconds off her 100 fly, and teammate Rose Georgias was just off that same reduction in her 100 back time.
– It’s worth mentioning that in over 100 heats, around 600 entries, there was not one changed touch pad, not one false start, not one call by the officials to stand and not one noise warning. All-in-all, it was a flawlessly conducted meet. Keep that in mind, District One.