IRHS swimming Lilah Hanley

IRHS' Lilah Hanley races down the lane.

Swimming requires repeated amounts of work — ideally in a pool — so that athletes can work on their strokes, breathing, speed, endurance, etc. When swimmers are already behind the 8-ball with no home pool, and then Mother Nature throws in her own little monkey-wrench with inclement weather, it makes training all that more difficult.

Those are never excuses for Indian River High School boys’ swimming coach Colin Crandell and his team, as they just persevere through the obstacles and continue to work hard to build themselves toward bigger goals.

In their first meet action in three weeks, the Indians struggled to get going in an eventual 95-75 loss to host Lake Forest on Tuesday, Jan. 11, at the Lake Forest Aquatics Center.

“We’ve only had two practices over the last three weeks, due to COVID and snow cancelations, so tonight’s meet was mostly a test to see if we could get back a little of what we lost,” admitted Crandell. “Our boys swam well, despite the extended absence from the pool. Although our times were a little off, they weren’t so far off as to cause much concern. I think another week of consistent practices and we’ll be right where we were pre-Christmas.”

The IR boys (3-2 overall) won just three of the 11 events in the meet with the Spartans, with Shane Hall winning the 100 butterfly (1:09.72) and Evan Peterson taking top honors in the 100 backstroke (1:17.00). Peterson then teamed with Gabe Clark, Alex Arnold and Finn Bellistri to win the 400 free relay with a time of 4:41.45.

For the girls, the Indians had an impressive showing against the Spartans, cruising to a 113-57 win. IR won nine of the 11 events overall, en route to a victory that improved their record to 4-1 on the season.

The Indians won all three girls’ relay events, with Heather Smyth, Lily Sharpe, Madeleine Fox and Julia Moran posting a time of 2:19.35 in the 200 medley relay to get the meet started.

Sharpe then joined forces with Madison Tipton, Michaela McDowell and Kendra Aukland to take the top spot in the 200 free relay with a time of 2:11.81. Kendra Aukland, Brynn Crandell, McDowell and Bella Scharp swam a 4:59.31 to win the 400 free relay.

“The girls are strong, and they didn’t lose much power over what was almost a three-week break,” said IR girls’ team coach Dana Schaefer. “Although nobody posted a new personal best time, I am still very happy with everyone’s swims. To be successful tonight by winning 113-57 was really encouraging.”

Isabella Scharp swam a 2:34.85 to win the 200 free, while McDowell touched the wall in 2:59.95 to take the 200 individual medley. Kendra Aukland torpedoed through the water to a 32.20 in the 50 free, with Scharp turning in a 1:11.59 for a first in the 100 free. Crandell was tops in the 400 free with her time of 5:37.31, and Gonzales took the 100 backstroke in 1:23.58.

“Our speedsters — Kendra Aukland, Bella Scharp, Michaela McDowell and Brynn Crandell — had key wins in their freestyle relays and individual events,” continued Schaefer. “Jordan Gonzales had a key win in 100 backstroke, as well as a strong second in the 100 freestyle.

“Heather Smyth may have placed second all night, but she brought in big points. Her focused racing mentality shows in her racing versatility. Tonight, she was a forceful competitor in both the fastest event — the 50 freestyle — and the longest, the 500 freestyle. I am so glad I can now count on her to make plays, if you will, right behind our fastest freestylers. That is a position any coach is grateful to have.”

According to Schaefer, Smyth’s individual events were the ones IR swept. Behind Smyth, Hannah Aukland took third in the 50 free. In the 500 free, Julia Moran’s smooth and steady stroke was as consistent as Smyth’s, to bring IR’s green to the wall before a single Lake Forest blue arrived. The girls ultimately rewarded the whole team in a huge way with those points.

“It was fun to see as Hannah swam beside her sister Kendra” in the 50 free, Schaefer said. “We know that the depth of a team that includes swimmers earning fourth and fifth places, in addition to firsts and seconds, is what makes a winning team. That’s why we still have to keep watchful eyes on girls like Sara Labarias Veguillas, Madeleine Fox, Addison Jerns, Delaney Aukland and Gabi Ragone. These girls are really coming along in their skills this first year on the team.”

The Indians will be back at it with another meet at the Milford Boys & Girls Club on Friday, Jan. 14, as they take on Caesar Rodney.

Extra Laps

Schaefer noted that the “Swimmer of the Meet” was Amina Adkins.

“She told me she would swim anything. She has been so diligent in practice that I knew I could take her at her word. She swam two events that were new to her and challenging to anyone — the 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly. Rising to the challenges and overcoming the anxiety that these events can evoke resulted in a transformative experience for her. When some swimmers would ask to be removed from the rest of their events after those challenging swims, she instead joined her teammates in a fourth-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay and another fourth in the 400 freestyle relay.

“You should have seen how Amina’s lane-mates rallied around her with congratulatory cheers and hugs after her butterfly event. No wonder she wanted to rejoin her encouraging teammates again for the relays. That’s the spirit of this team that is undeniably impactful.”

Madison Tipton’s third place in 100 breaststroke was impressive for Schaefer. It came in right behind Lilah Hanley’s time. “I wish we had Tipton and her classmate Lily Sharpe for another year, but I’ll enjoy them while we have them.”

The Indians will honor Tipton and Sharpe, who placed third in 100 butterfly, on Senior Night on Tuesday, Jan. 18, in a meet versus Dover at the Sussex Academy pool. Those two, along with the lone IR boys’ senior, Finnegan Bellistri, will be recognized that night.

Last but not least, “Hannah Rock is naturally fast — just flat-out fast,” added Schaefer. “Her exhibition 50 free time (32.63) was almost as fast as Kendra Aukland’s time (32.26), and Rock’s exhibition 100 free time (1:16.5) was as fast as Jordan Gonzales’ time (1:16.43). We really missed out on her contributions early in the season until the break. Once Rock is practicing and racing more consistently, watch out!”

Staff Reporter

Jason has been in journalism for over 20 years. He moved to Coastal Delaware in August 2017 with his daughters, Kylie, 18, and Grace, 14. He has a passion for high-school sports and especially values the relationships that he builds.