New season. New pool. Same wall-to-wall rivalry.
The Indian River High School and Sussex Academy swim teams faced off for the third straight year but the first time at Sussex Academy’s new pool on Tuesday, Dec. 21, with each team walking away with a division win.
On the boys’ side of things, the Indians pulled off a 96-76 victory, while the Seahawks’ girls’ team came out on top 99-66 after getting edged in a close matchup last season.
Showcasing the rivalry’s tension once again was IR senior McKenna Burke and SA sophomore Cailey Murphy, who have been longtime friends on land but cutthroat competitors as soon as they hit the water.
Last year, Burke got the best of that rivalry in the 100-butterfly, but this year, it was Murphy hitting the wall first, clocking in less than a tenth of a second before Burke, with a time of 1:07.59.
“Those two always come down to the wire,” IR head coach Colin Crandel said of the matchup. “They always bring out the best in each other.
“This is the meet that our kids get up for, and I believe their kids get up for, because they all know each other.”
Despite another second-place finish against Sussex Academy junior Tessa Elling in the 50-freestyle, Burke still posted personal bests, with times of 1:07.68 in the butterfly and 29.43 in the freestyle, just a second shy of Elling’s first-place time of 28.79.
Elling would go on to claim her second first-place finish of the night in the 100-backstroke, while the Indians took first in the 100-freestyle when senior Erin Haden clocked in at 1:04.10.
Individually, IR senior Lindsey Grow managed two first-place finishes in the meet, taking the 200-meter IM with a time of 2:30.38 and 100-breaststroke at 1:18.94.
“Lindsey won both her events, but I don’t think she was pleased with her times,” said Crandel. “Then again, she’s always trying to improve her times, which is what we want to see.”
Along with Burke, Haden and sophomore Sarah Roehl, taking over for graduated senior Lauren McCoy, Grow also helped the Indians to a first-place finish in the 200-free relay.
The Seahawks claimed key wins in the 200-medley relay and 400-free relay behind the relay teams of Elling, Murphy, senior Julia Martiner and sophomore Allison Wheatley, and Martiner, Murphy, freshman Lindsey Guida and eighth-grader Tess Mariner, as well as in the 200 and 500-freestyle behind Martiner.
As for the boys, the Indians took the top spot in every event aside from the 50- and 100-freestyle, where Sussex Academy junior Cooper Shawver clocked in with times of 24.17 and 54.33, respectively.
Some fresh faces finishing first for the Indians included freshman Josh McIntire in both the 200 and 500 freestyle, with times of 1:56.22 and 5:25.75, and junior transfer Blake “Stuart” Shuart taking the 100-butterfly and 100-backstroke, while returning sophomore Patrick Banks took the 200-IM and 100-breaststroke.
“Josh and Patrick are probably our most versatile swimmers — we can put them in any almost event and know that we’re gonna get a first or second place,” Crandel said, giving the credit for McIntire’s immediate impact as a freshman to his father, Scott McIntire, who coaches his club team.
“Blake is quickly emerging as one of our other versatile swimmers that we can put in any event,” he added of Shuart. “He’s definitely one of our go-to guys.”
The Indians also took all three relays at the meet, with the Kohr brothers — junior Jonathan Kohr and sophomore Max Kohr — teaming up with Shuart and sophomore Michael Barnes, and finishing with a time of 1:40.22 in the 200-free relay.
While the top spots were clutch, Crandel said that the depth of this year’s boys’ squad giving them a chance at points all the way through fifth and sixth places has perhaps been just as critical so far this season.
“I talked to the team tonight, and they’re starting to see the value in winning those fifth and sixth places,” he said.
“They can really turn a meet around with those places, so we’re rallying around everyone — we’re watching that fifth- and sixth-place finish very close in this season. That’s going to make or break some of these meets.”
After the win, the boys kept their undefeated record unsullied at 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the Henlopen South, while the Seahawks took their first loss of the year and dropped to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the South.
The girls dropped to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the division, while the Seahawks’ girls’ squad made it 4-0 and 2-0 in the division.
Both teams will take a winter-break hiatus coming up, with IR’s next meet scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 5, against Sussex Central, at Howard T. Ennis, and Sussex Academy set to host Caesar Rodney the same day.
200 Medley Relay — IR, Shuart, McIntire, Banks, Kohr, 1:51:81
200 Freestyle — McIntire, IR, 1:56:22
200 Individual Medley — IR, Banks, 2:16:47
50 Freestyle — C. Shawver, SA, 24.17
100 Butterfly — Shuart, IR, 59:89
100 Freestyle — C. Shawver, SA, 54.33
500 Freestyle — McIntire, IR, 5:25:75
200 Free Relay — IR, Shuart, Barnes, Kohr, Kohr, 1:40:22
100 Backstroke — Shuart, IR, 1:07:21
100 Breaststroke — Banks, IR, 1:11:39
400 Free Relay — IR, Kohr, Banks, Barnes, McIntire, 3:48:49
200 Medley Relay — SA, Elling, Wheatley, Murphy, Martiner, 2:07:34
200 Freestyle — Martiner, SA, 2:10:83
200 Individual Medley — Grow, IR, 2:30.38
50 Freestyle — Elling, SA, 28:79
100 Butterfly — Murphy, SA, 1:07:59
100 Freestyle — Haden, IR, 1:04:10
500 Freestyle — Martiner, SA, 5:55:18
200 Free Relay — IR, Haden, Burke, Roehl, Grow, 1:57:87
100 Backstroke — Elling, SA, 1:13:05
100 Breaststroke — Grow, IR, 1:18:94
400 Free Relay — SA, Martiner, Mariner, Guida, Murphy, 4:17:05