It’s not that they were the underdogs, but the East Pennsboro girls stunned their competition in Friday’s Mid-Penn Class 2A Swimming Championships at Cumberland Valley High School.
On Saturday morning, the Panthers were declared the winner with 112 points. A computer error Friday, which at first said East Penn tied Bishop McDevitt for first with 242 points, was corrected before the 3A meet began a day later.
That put the Panthers ahead of second-place Boiling Springs (93 points) and third-place Trinity (89). McDevitt finished fourth with 83 points.
(Editor's note: This story was updated Saturday morning with the corrected information.)
“We’re very excited to perform so well together as a group,” said Panthers assistant coach Hanna Wingert, who stepped into head coaching duties for the day after head coach Shannon Novakoski became sick. “We’ve considered ourselves a winning team, and our goal for several years has been to work hard together and to do our best. And to see this type of result come out of that, everybody is just very excited.”
The Panthers dazzled in the pool with sisters Samantha and Isabella Kil paving the way with a combined four individual victories.
Samantha impressed in her Mid-Penn championship debut, tallying first-place finishes in the 100 and 200 freestyle, touching the wall in 53.43 and 1:56.23. Isabella flourished in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley, finishing in 57.28 and 2:07.71, respectively.
East Pennsboro also received help from junior Sara Turner, who turned in a gold-medal swim in the 500 freestyle (5:11.53) and a silver in the 200 IM (2:10.01). Samantha, Isabella and Sara all contributed in the team’s relays as well.
“Our focus is always as a team, but to have a few of those individuals [Samantha, Isabella, and Sarah] stand out as stars and come out over the past couple of years, I think it definitely gives the entire team some energy,” Wingert said.
Due to the pandemic, the Mid-Penn championships were contested in an unusual format, with girls competing Friday and the boys set to dive in Saturday. Rather than swim over two days, each group swam during a designated three-hour window — 2A girls then 3A girls Friday, 2A boys then 3A boys Saturday — in timed finals only.
The Julia Strine show
In Mid-Penn Class 3A girls action, it was a typical night for Shippensburg’s Division I commit Julia Strine: breaking records.
In the second-to-last event of the meet, Strine smashed the Mid-Penn record in the 100 breaststroke with a 1:02.14 time. Additionally, the Ohio University pledge broke the Shippensburg 50 freestyle school record earlier in the evening, touching the wall in 24.07, and claimed the silver medal.
Fly Eagles fly
But Strine wasn’t the only Sentinel-area swimmer to add her name to the record books. Cumberland Valley’s Jennifer Bolden tallied a 51.51 time in the 100 freestyle, breaking the Eagle’s school record — a record previously held by her sister.
“She can obviously set the tone for the rest of our team,” CV head coach Mike Gobrecht said.
The record-shattering performance was one of Bolden’s two victories on the night, which led to a CV third-place finish overall. Her other first-place tally came in the 200 freestyle with a 1:51.72 time. The Eagles also bested their previous feat in the 400 freestyle relay.
“With everything they’ve been through with COVID protocols — and let’s not forget about snow, we lost major practice time because of the snow,” Gobrecht said. “But to come in here and really have confidence in themselves, their training and their teammates, it’s just absolutely remarkable.”
Other notables for the Eagles included sophomore Kamryn Barone, who earned gold in the 200 IM. Junior Presley Staretz earned bronze in the 200 freestyle and Mia Pesavento finished fourth in the 100 butterfly.
Trinity teamwork pays off
Trinity had itself a fine day as well en route to a third-place finish with 89 points.
The Shamrocks cruised to two victories in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay. Sophomore Kari Powell notched gold in the 100 breaststroke with a 1.04.68 time. Behind her, senior Lila DiCarlo totaled two individual second-place marks in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
Sophomore Madelyn Paxton tacked on third-place finishes in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke with times of 2:11.52 and 59.26, respectively.
“The girls put in a lot of hard work, and I think that they know their teammates put in the hard work as well,” Shamrocks head coach Samantha Shirtliff said. “So, they really come together in the relay and respect that of each other and can really do some great things.”
Young Bubblers impress
The young Boiling Springs squad also showed out Friday afternoon, sporting second place with 93 points.
With odds against them from the start of the season —the coaching staff and multiple swimmers opted out with COVID-19 concerns — the Bubblers displayed confidence and composure in the pool.
Freshman Katie Buehler earned her first career Mid-Penn championship medal with a 58.49 time in the 100 backstroke and along the way added a bronze-medal finish in the 200 freestyle.
Following Buehler, fellow freshman Tess Naylor tallied two second-place finishes in the 200 and 500 freestyle. Sophomore Jillian Strine rounded out the Bubbler trio with a silver medal in the 50 freestyle (25.01) and a bronze in the 100 freestyle (54.52).
“I think our girls raced really hard, and we had terrific performances from start to finish,” Boiling Springs interim head coach Jeff Kaminski said. “To see all the improvements and then the consistency from all of our athletes was just awesome.”
Other local highlights
The Big Spring Bulldogs were the other Sentinel-area 2A team to crack the Top 3 in an event, earning bronze in 400 freestyle relay. The team finished fifth overall with 50 points.