It’s taken a few days to come down from the excitement of Easterns – OK, not really, been busy with some other stuff. But I didn’t want to miss the occasion to highlight a few other performances that didn’t make any of the myriad print articles. So here we go:
– With a team as deep and talented as the Episcopal Academy girls, it’s tough to highlight just one stellar race in a weekend of them. But the 100 butterfly has to be it. McKenzie Street set the county record at 55.59 seconds, Emily Rhodes took it back a heat later at 55.53, then Rhodes won the final in 54.76 with Street third. It’s kind of tough to determine which of those performances is more impressive. Before Rhodes’ sophomore year, the county record in the 100 fly had been stuck at 56.90 for over a quarter century since Garnet Valley’s Jen Ritins graduated in 1985. In three seasons, Rhodes has lowered that mark by over two seconds. Then there’s Street, who didn’t win an individual event at Easterns but A finaled twice. She isn’t even a butterflier, eschewing the individual medley on Day 1 while breaststroke is really her specialty. To set a county record in your off event is pretty stunning.
– The future at Haverford School is ridiculously bright. As I alluded to, they lose only one senior who scored on Day 2 of the meet, and while that’s a sizeable void left by All-Delco Dan McGrath, the underclassmen are ready to take up the burden. At a prelims time of 52.31, Ben Nelligan is one of the better butterfliers around. Alex Boratto, just an eighth-grader (!) is a 51-low 100 backstroker and 53 100 flier who, goes the consensus among coaches, is nowhere near his ceiling. Matt Haigh, just a sophomore, is already in the conversation of greatest distance swimmers in Delco history. And the likes of Luke and Charlie Ryan also return. I don’t think the Fords will have the depth to make a run at an Easterns title next year, but they could certainly challenge Malvern for Inter-Ac supremacy.
– Speaking of potential, it’s easy for the Episcopal Academy boys to get lost in the afterglow of their female teammates. But they are going to be formidable next year. Their three top contributors – sophomore Ben Baturka and juniors Waylon Jin and Cullen McShane – are back. And seventh-grader Ivan Puskovitch, a national 9-10 age-group record holder, has a ridiculous amount of potential. Depth is always the question, but they have the top-line guys.
– Let’s talk diving. I’m not the biggest enthusiast of the sport, which is no secret. But if every high school diving meet featured the kind of brilliance as Easterns, you better believe my attentions would be piqued. Josh Owsiany and Marin Bloise are just phenomenal. Owsiany’s performance, a county record by over 60 points, is mind-boggling. He bettered the record by 11 percent. To put that into perspective, breaking the girls 50 free record held by EA’s Emily Baturka by a similar margin would be a 20.8, roughly. Certainly some records are softer than others. But I think Owsiany’s mark of 573 joins the Mount Rushmore with the marks of Shane Ryan, Brendan Hansen and Bob Gavin as enduring for a long time. Bloise, on the other hand, authored a story like Owsiany’s last year, where he nearly failed a dive but still won. Bloise had an unexpected change in the program, and while she still won by a wide margin, it cost her a county record. The good news is that both are juniors, which means a full season of masterpieces ahead. Oh yeah, and the divers taking third — Kara Madey and Andrew Owsiany — are also underclassmen. Yikes.
– I need to include the Agnes Irwin and Notre Dame swimmers in the discussions of the future. Kaitlin Perni of Notre Dame experimented with the 200 IM and went 2:08 in an event where she doesn’t even know how well she can do. Agnes Irwin’s Riley Flick finaled as a freshman in the 100 fly. Teammate Maddie Aguirre is a 2:14 IMer in seventh grade. And Notre Dame’s Michaela McGeary is a 1:00 backstroker as a freshman. Charting their development in the coming years is going to be exciting.
– I’ve tried to limit the discussions about other teams – though with the meet- and national-record holders present at the meet, that’s difficult. But the girls 400 free relay has to be an exception, a gut-wrenching, misery-filled exception. In back-to-back finals heats, the squad from Mercersburg – the team which had a swimmer rather, um, unexpectedly, do her 500 free in fly, which is one of Dante’s circles of hell – had its anchor swimmer dive in at 250 instead of 300 yards, nearly landing right on top of her teammate and earning a DQ. In the A final, a swimmer from Andover jumped in to celebrate before the final swimmer of the last-place team had finished, resulting in a DQ and a lengthy delay while officials deliberated with the coach. You may never see those three oddities together ever again.
– Finally, our industry is necessarily focused on the best of the best, those at the top. But a meet like Easterns is the culminating meet for swimmers at the top, middle and bottom of the roster. And for most, success isn’t measured in medals or ribbons but in incremental improvement and met goals. And through the hundreds (really, there were 292 heats between prelims and finals) of heats, there were plenty of performances in which swimmers outdid their personal bests by massive margins. Take EA’s Caroline Cook, who dropped just short of a second from her 50 free and over a second and half from her 100 free, or teammate Rebekah Achuff, who want from a 1:09 to a 1:06.63 in the 100 fly. EA’s Cyrus Ghaderi and Josh Wang each trimmed over 1.5 seconds from their 100 free seed times, while Brian Rodio went from 54.04 to 52.10 in his 100 free. In the girls 100 free, EA’s Annin Decker and Agnes Irwin’s Ana Mashek each dropped over a second and a half. Breaststroker Skyler Schork of EA dropped almost three seconds, while Agnes Irwin’s Margaux Bigelow’s drop in the event was nearly four seconds, as was EA’s Will Patterson. They might not have garnered individual trophies, but they left La Salle with encouraging accomplishments to build upon.