The DIAA State Swimming Championships are usually the culmination of a long, arduous season of trainings and meets that provide one final grand stage for student-athletes to showcase all their efforts over the course of three grueling months.
However, the 2020-2021 season — which will be known as “the Season after COVID” — has an entirely different meaning for two Indian River High School seniors. For Emma Barthelmess and Lexi Hall, it is the final opportunity to don the green-and-gold after four long years of blood, sweat, tears and chlorine, bouncing around from pool-to-pool, never truly having a place to call home.
The IR senior dynamic duo have each qualified for four events this Saturday at the DIAA State Swimming Championships at the Sussex Academy Aquatic Center. They have to put their best stroke forward to reach the coveted championship podium, but as with all the hurdles they’ve faced these four years, anything is possible.
Both girls have qualified for the 50-yard freestyle event with their respective times of 26.25 for Barthelmess (12th) and 26.70 for Hall (16th). They will be chasing Conrad School eighth-grader Alyssa Napier, who posted a blistering top qualifying time of 24.36.
Barthelmess will be swimming in the 100-yard breaststroke event as the lone IR representative, thanks to her Top 10 qualifying time of 1:11.00. She is well within reach of getting herself up on the podium in this event. Top-seeded junior Jordan Tierney from Appoquinimink qualified with a 1:07.37.
“As I head into the state meet, I am feeling more excited rather than nervous and anxious,” Barthelmess said. “This is mostly because it will be my last chance to swim for high school with the friends that swimming has given me. Personally, I am focused on swimming against myself and improving my own times, as opposed to swimming for a place. So, if I perform well enough to make podium that would be great, but in the end, I am looking to make PRs [personal records] and enjoy my last high school meet.”
Hall sits 27th in the qualifying for her individual event — the 100-yard freestyle. Her posted time of 1:00.98 earned her spot in the event as she will try to chase down the 26 girls ahead of her, with Brandywine freshman Rachel Bockrath the top seed at 52.96.
Three relay teams also qualified for the Indians in the state championship meet. The 200-yard medley relay quartet of freshmen Heather Smyth and Brynn Crandell, with sophomores Bella Scharp and Jordan Gonzalez, posted a time of 2:12.46, which was the 20th fastest in the state this year so far. They will be trying to track down the team from Ursuline Academy that is at the top of the list at 1:53.77.
Barthelmess and Hall will be joined by fellow senior Lauren Carter, as well as Scharp, for the 200-yard freestyle relay event. The group posted a 1:49.35 to qualify 11th for the event. Henlopen Athletic Conference power Cape Henlopen is the top seed with their 1:43.12.
Then, in the 400-yard freestyle relay, it will be Barthelmess, Scharp, Crandell and Hall teaming up for the Indians, as their time of 4:09.92 ranked them 17th heading into the state meet. Top seed Tower Hill’s best time of the year is 3:42.20.
There are no guarantees for a meet of this magnitude. Regular-season times are but a blip on the radar for what we could see on Saturday from many individuals and teams. It’ll be exciting to see all the action as it unfolds, and for Barthelmess and Hall, the final time of friendship with their teammates after these four long years.