After being named co-Southern Division champions, along with also-undefeated Milford last week, the Indian River High School girls’ swim team got a chance to settle the score at the Henlopen Conference championships held at the Lake Forest Aquatics Center on Saturday, Feb. 13.
In taking third place overall, behind Henlopen North squads Cape Henlopen and Sussex Tech, the Indians did just that — besting the fourth-place Bucs by just five points and earning their best finish in program history.
“I’m extremely happy with that. I told you at the beginning of the season, I knew the girls were Top 3,” said head coach Colin Crandel. “Going up against Cape and Tech, they were outnumbered, and they’ve got career swimmers. They did really well.”
“We all did so well today, and we’re not even tapered,” added senior Lauren McCoy. “We’ve just been building and building.”
Against some of the top swimmers in the area, the girls racked up five medals on the day. Two of those medals came from McCoy, in the last conference meet of her career, taking second in the 100-meter butterfly after Cape’s Amelia Niah-Johnson, and second in the 100-meter backstroke, just 0.22 behind Cape’s Sarah Rambo.
Junior Lindsey Grow added the Indians’ other individual medal, taking third in the 200-meter IM, teaming up with McCoy and juniors McKenna Burke and Erin Haden for the rest of the lot in both of the relay events that they entered. The foursome started the day with a second place in the 200-meter medley and capped it off with a much-needed third-place medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay after entering the final event just one point ahead of Milford.
The girls had competed in a different heat in that event, so they weren’t immediately sure that they had medaled.
“We had to watch the scoreboard to see. We had to figure it out ourselves,” explained junior Erin Haden. “It was like when we got the record at Milford — we were just waiting to see.”
The boys would also earn a Top 5 conference finish on the day, taking fourth place behind larger squads from Cape, Sussex Tech and Caesar Rodney.
“For the boys, I’m really happy with the outcome. I wasn’t expecting us to be as strong as we were [this season],” Crandel said of the young crop of swimmers. “I’m really happy. It’s a good setting stage for next year.”
Senior Mason Sanders lead the charge with two-first place medals — one in the 50-meter freestyle and the other in the 100-meter freestyle — also breaking the school record in the 50-free while he was at it and going on to be named Henlopen Conference Outstanding Swimmer of the Year.
But some of the underclassmen also stood out on the day, including sophomores Jonathan Kohr and Andrew Scalard, who each qualified for states, and freshman Patrick Callow, who earned a personal best time in the 100-meter backstroke.
“I think [the underclassmen] are really charismatic this year. They’re so into it, and it’s really helped them. They’re confident,” said Lindsey Grow regarding the team dynamic. “I think, as a team, we’ve definitely gotten closer, and that’s definitely pushed us to do better.”
With all the personal bests on the day, Crandel chalked it up to one of his personal mantras: “Success breeds success.”
“Success breeds success — when they see [personal bests], it just gives them confidence that it’s going to happen to them too,” he explained. “I think that’s what happened [today]. It was pretty unexpected on some levels, expected on others — but I’m happy.”
At the end of the month, the Indians will head north to the University of Delaware for the DIAA State Championships, where expectations will again be high. However, Crandel, as always, is looking for improved times more than places.
“I always want faster times. The places are gonna fall where the places fall. You can’t control that. You can control yourself,” he said. “So, for them, I just want to see that the times keep dropping. That’s always been my expectation.”
And as for next year’s conference championships, just like they did this year, the team will be looking to push the program even further.
“We want to at least maintain where we’ve gotten to, and we would love to get even better,” said Haden.
“First [place] — that would be awesome,” added Burke.