They were a small squad in numbers, but they certainly never lacked in heart nor in effort. The 2018-2019 Indian River girls' swim team battled in each and every event all season, and several of them saw the fruits of their labors commence last weekend, when they took to the pool for the DIAA state swimming championships at the University of Delaware.

Amber Hills, Kaitlyn Kreiser, Emma Kelly, Lexi Hall and Emma Barthelmess all made the trek north with their head coach, Dana Schaefer. While they may not have come home with any medals, they certainly represented themselves well.

Of the six, only Hills and Kreiser are seniors. That means junior Kelly, sophomores Hall and Barthelmess, and freshman Nadia Czyzewski were able to gain some valuable experience for the future.

“I was proud to see the girls come together as a little team in a big meet,” Schaefer said. “They all have worked really hard this year and certainly deserved this opportunity at this level.”

The Indians' 200 medley relay team — Kelly, Barthelmess, Hills and Hall — swam a second faster than their state-qualifying time. The 400 free relay team also improved on their state-qualifying time.

“I am so proud of co-captain Amber Hills for dropping several seconds off of both her butterfly and freestyle times in the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay, respectively,” Schaefer noted. “Amber really surprised herself with those times, but she shouldn't have been surprised. She worked hard every day she could possibly train, and she raced without holding back anything. She knew it was her last chance, and she swam with everything she had.”

Schaefer also had praise for her team's other captain, Kreiser.

“Kaitlyn performed her best in the 200 freestyle relay, as well as the 400 freestyle relay,” the coach noted. “I am so grateful for Kaitlyn's calm, relaxed leadership style. That helped her team in what is otherwise an intense swim meet.”

In the 50 freestyle, Barthelmess and Hall both competed, and performed admirably. Barthelmess also participated in an extremely competitive breaststroke event.

“Emma Kelly posted a personal-best time when leading off with the backstroke in the medley relay,” Schaefer added. “This was Emma Kelly's first state meet, and she really rose to the occasion. I expect her to return next year, bringing her enthusiasm and encouragement to pump up the team.”

And the duo of sensational sophomores certainly will be able to grow with the experience of competing on such a grand stage.

“Lexi and Emma [Barthelmess] trained and prepared so well for this meet,” continued Schaefer. “We knew that their competition in the 50 freestyle event was going to be tough, and I cannot be more proud of the effort they put forth in their races.

“Emma [Barthelmess] trained especially hard on her turns for the breaststroke, and she performed them perfectly. Even though this was her second time racing breaststroke at the state level, she was still as excited as if it were her first time. I love her positive competitive spirit.”

The youngest Indian certainly was not overcome by the magnitude of the moment.

“Nadia is another true competitor, who has risen to the occasion on relays this year,” Schaefer concluded. “She gave a tremendous effort in the 400 free relay and got into the spirit of this high-caliber swim meet. I'm excited to see what she will do next year.”

The Indians girls' team overall will only lose four seniors from this year's team, with Grace Furman, Isabelle Micielly, Hills and Kreiser all graduating in June.

By Jason Feather

Staff Reporter