It was hard to decide which was the home team when the Indian River and Sussex Central high school swim teams faced off at Howard T. Ennis in Georgetown on Thursday, Jan. 6. With both squads sharing the pool at Howard T. Ennis for home meets and often for practices, they certainly know each other well.
And, while the Indians may have gotten the best of this year’s matchup, with a 111-57 win for the boys and 92-74 win for the girls, the annual district rivalry is one to which, win or lose, both teams always look forward.
“It’s always very friendly; our teams get along really well,” said IR head coach Colin Crandell, who works with Central head coach Jeff Kilner on the Middlesex Beach Patrol in the summer. “It’s one of those environments where it’s real cooperative. We both tell each other what we’re seeing on the other team.”
“We love swimming with their team, because we’ve made friends with all of them over the years, sharing this pool and just seeing them so often,” said IR senior Erin Haden. “It’s more of a friendly competition.”
“We’re actually really close with them, so swimming with them is always fun,” added IR senior McKenna Burke.
Indian River 92, Sussex Central 74 (girls’ final)
Along with senior Lindsey Grow and sophomore Grace Furman, Haden and Burke got things going for the girls with a first-place finish in the 200-medley relay, clocking in at 2:11.02, before the Central team of Morgan Burton, Adriana Lopez, Kelsi Warrington and Stephanie Wilson in second, at 2:22.49.
Grow would go on to earn two individual first-places, in 200-meter IM and 100-breaststroke, with Burke taking first in the 100-butterfly.
Despite missing the first four weeks of the season fighting mononucleosis and getting wisdom teeth pulled, Haden would go on to both PR and qualify for states in the 50-freestyle, with a time of 27.57.
“This meet was kind of a stress-reliever,” Haden said of the new personal best. “I missed all but one of the winter practices, so I was worried about how I was going to do compared to last season.”
The future of the girls’ squad was also on display for the Indians, with sophomore Sarah Roehl taking first in the 200-freestyle and the relay team of sophomore Amber Hills, freshman Emma Kelly, sophomore Alexis Landrie and freshman Elizabeth Towne earning a first-place finish in the 400-free relay as well.
“We have some strong new girls coming up that are swimming events that they’ve never swam before,” Burke said of some of the squad’s young up-and-comers. “They definitely have a lot of potential — they’re all placing and getting us points.”
Top performances for Central included Lopez edging Haden by less than a second for the 100-freestyle, with a time of 1:03.18, and then going on to take first in the 100-backstroke, with a time of 1:19.16.
Indian River 111, Sussex Central 57 (boys’ final)
On the boys’ side, the Indians stayed undefeated and rolled to 4-0 while handing the Golden Knights their first loss of the season. IR took the top spot in every event aside from the 500-freestyle and 100-breaststroke, where Central juniors Albert Norman and Owen Davis earned first-place finishes with times of 6:29.31 and 1:15.91, respectively.
While top finishers for the Indians featured several of the usual suspects — including junior Jonathan Kohr taking the 50-freestyle, sophomore Patrick Banks claiming both the 100- and 200-meter freestyle, junior transfer Blake Shuart taking the top spot in the 100-backstroke, and freshman phenom Josh McIntire racking up wins in both the 200-meter IM and 100-butterfly — some mixing and matching of the lineup card put some of the not-so-usual suspects on display as well.
“We were experimenting a little bit,” Crandell explained. “We wanted to see who would step up.”
One of those swimmers stepping up was sophomore Mitch McGee, who’s already shed 5 seconds from his 100-freestyle time since joining the team earlier this season, and who got the bump to the 400-free relay “A Squad” to earn a first-place finish along with junior Garrett Bomhardt and the Kohr brothers — Jonathan and Max.
“We were hoping it would be a motivator, and it was,” Crandell said of a new personal record for McGee in the 100-freestyle to start the relay. “That adrenaline boost in a relay brings out the best in them. I was real impressed with Mitch tonight.”
“I’ve been trying to improve on my 100 time,” added McGee. “Coach has been pushing me to do my best. That’s all I want to do is do my best and, hopefully, make states by the end of the year.”
Other top spots for the Indians included the relay team of Banks, McIntire, Jonathan Kohr and sophomore Michael Barnes starting the meet with a first-place time of 1:55.75 in the 200-medley relay and going on to clock in at 1:39.30 for first in 200-free relay.
According to swimmers including Barnes, however, the team’s success so far this season has had just as much to do with their ability to rack up points on some of the lower spots on the podium.
“Even the fifth-place spot is still huge — there were people stepping up today and taking fifth instead of sixth, which is really important for the team as a whole,” Barnes said. “We have a lot of swimmers that can step up to the plate when the pressure’s on. I think we’re really strong as a team this year.”
Along with Banks, Shuart, McIntire and the Kohr brothers, Barnes is one of six swimmers on the boys’ squad to have already qualified for states in multiple events.
“We’ve had that in the past, but we have multiple qualifiers here, so it’s giving us options that we’ve never had before at states,” said Crandell. “We’ve got a lot of kids on the cusp of qualifying, also. I think we could probably add three or four more to that before the end of the season.”
This week, the Indians were set to hit the road for division matchups at Seaford on Tuesday, Jan. 10, and Milford on Thursday, Jan. 12, while the Golden Knights looked to take advantage of some less-ambiguous home-pool advantage and host Cape Henlopen on Tuesday, Jan. 10, and Dover on Thursday, Jan. 12, at Howard T. Ennis in Georgetown at 4:30 p.m.
200 Medley Relay: M. Barnes, P. Banks, J. McIntire, J. Kohr (IR) — 1:55.75
200 Freestyle: P. Banks (IR) — 2:04.70
200 Individual Medley: J. McIntire (IR) — 2:18.36
50 Freestyle: J. Kohr (IR) — 24.23
100 Butterfly: J. McIntire (IR) — 58.57
100 Freestyle: P. Banks (IR) — 54.66
500 Freestyle: A. Norman (SC) — 6:29.31
200 Free Relay: P. Banks, J. Kohr, M. Barnes,
J. McIntire (IR) — 1:39.30
100 Backstroke: B. Shuart (IR) — 1:05.45
100 Breaststroke: O. Davis (SC) — 1:15.91
400 Free Relay: M. McGee, G. Bomhardt, J. Kohr, M. Kohr (IR) — 3:57.75
200 Medley Relay: G. Furman, L. Grow, M. Burke, E. Haden (IR) — 2:11.02
200 Freestyle: S. Roehl (IR) — 2:35.91
200 Individual Medley: L. Grow (IR) — 2:26.96
50 Freestyle: E. Haden (IR) — 27.57
100 Butterfly: M. Burke (IR) — 1:08.98
100 Freestyle: A. Lopez (SC) — 1:03.18
500 Freestyle: M. Burke (SC) — 6:48.00
200 Free Relay: A. Lopez, K. Warrington, S. Wilson, M. Burton (SC) — 2:00.14
100 Backstroke: A. Lopez (SC) — 1:19.16
100 Breaststroke: L. Grow (IR) — 1:18.08
400 Free Relay: A. Hills, E. Kelly, A. Landrie,
E. Towne (SC) — 6:08.65