The showdown meets are behind us and the slog toward championship season is being measured in weeks instead of months. Let’s take a look at what has changed in the dual-met hierarchy thanks to all those decisive meets. (Records through Jan. 19)
1. Episcopal Academy (3-1) Last Week: No. 1
This year’s EA team is very different. It doesn’t possess the stable of stars and specialists as in the past. But the team is so much deeper this season, and their top three swimmers have such broad areas of expertise that stretch into three strokes each. How well the freestyle depth via Rachael Farmer and Maddie O’Reilly continues to develop will be vital in figuring out how the relay pieces fit together for Easterns.
2. Radnor (6-0) Last Week: No. 4
Someone, it appears, was quite wrong in their previous valuation of Radnor, huh? It’s just remarkable how deep they’ve become this season as they roll toward a Central League title. The freshman class of Julia Cullen, Grace Wakiyama and Caroline Osman has gotten so good so quickly, and with Laura Packer representing the lone major threat among the Raiders’ seniors, the run at the top could be more than just a one-year cameo.
3. Strath Haven (6-1) Last Week: No. 2
The dual meet between Radnor and Strath Haven was a study in contrasts: The Raiders won just three events (two by Cullen, plus the 100 back via Sasha Smolyansky) but still prevailed on the scoreboard. The ability of Frances Resweber, Summer Martin and Camille Jablonski to challenge for event wins at the District One Championships may just put the Panthers in a better position to score highest at that meet.
4. Haverford (7-2) Last Week: No. 3
Looking at the Central League top times, it’s easy to see why the Fords stay here. They’ve got a handful of names in the list of the league’s best, enough to populate two states-challenging relays, but after the top three names, it’s only a smattering of top times. That’s the depth that makes the difference against quality teams like Radnor and Strath Haven.
5. Garnet Valley (6-4) Last Week: No. 6
It’s easy to get overshadowed by Martin in the Central League sprint ranks, but Jordan Stansfield has really emerged as the next best sprinter in the league, holding her automatic districts cuts in the 50/100 free and 100 fly. She impressed me with her ability to race Ridley’s Kiera Wadsworth in their dual meet last week, and you wonder if the sophomore is ready to make that jump at districts into the states conversation.
6. Ridley (7-2) Last Week: No. 5
The Green Raiders have been hit by the injury bug, and that’s part of the reason for their loss to the Jaguars last week. Thus far, Ridley has just one District One consideration relay cut (the 200 free), which means a lot of girls could be resting for Centrals to chase that cut.
7. Penncrest (4-3) Last Week: No. 7
The Lions could be a team to watch at Centrals. They have just one swimmer with a districts consideration cut – Lauren Isaacs in the 100 breast – which means that Centrals will be the championship meet for the majority of the team.