The final meet of the regular season for the Elizabethtown Area High School swimming team was highly anticipated, mostly due to the scheduling. It was postponed twice from its original date of Tuesday, Jan. 29, due to snowy weather, so the Bears had nearly two weeks of waiting to sit through. But when it finally took place, they dominated.
The team hosted Manheim Central on Monday, Feb. 4, at Elizabethtown College’s Alumni Pool, leaving with a sweep; the boys won 127-39, while the girls earned a 119-43 victory. The wins were made all the more sweeter since it was Senior Night; all nine of Elizabethtown’s graduating swimmers competed in multiple events.
“At the beginning of the year, you can kind of pick out the teams that are gonna be the slightly easier wins,” said head coach Chad Houck, who started with the team as an assistant during the freshman year of this senior class. “I knew Manheim had low numbers, so I was able to fill a lot of the lanes with our seniors, and they got some wins, which was fun. We had an entire senior team for both of our medley relay teams. Seeing those seniors coming the whole way through has been really emotional, and it’s just exciting to see kids grow up into young adults and have a passion for swimming.”
The 2019 class showed out well against the Barons. On the boys side, Stuart Readinger, Kyle Welch and Jared Cochran teamed up with sophomore Ben Azzalina to win the 200-yard medley relay. The former two also took the 200-yard freestyle relay with the latter and freshman Riley Runnels. Readinger finished first in the 100-yard freestyle (50.35) and second in the 100-yard breaststroke, while Welch placed first in the 100-yard butterfly (1:05.34) and second in the 100-yard backstroke.
For the Lady Bears, senior Abby Alspaugh won the 200-yard freestyle (2:22.53) and finished third in the 100-yard backstroke. Caeli Connolly was second in the 200-yard freestyle, as well as third in the 500-yard freestyle, while Cera Connolly placed third in the 50-yard freestyle and fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke. Emily Louie also took third in the 100-yard butterfly and fourth in the 200-yard freestyle.
The rest of the field for Elizabethtown swam productively too. The boys swept every race, with sophomore Andrew Donahue leading the way by winning the 200-yard individual medley (2:23.38) and the 100-yard backstroke (1:07.36). In addition to his previously mentioned relay wins, Ben Azzalina also won the 100-yard freestyle (50.35), as well as the 400-yard freeestyle relay with Runnels, sophomore Sam Azzalina and sophomore Chase Shelly. Sophomore Reece Readinger, freshman Ethan Hall and freshman Wyatt Rachael had victories in the 500-yard freestyle (5:51.55), 200-yard freestyle (2:09.70) and 100-yard breaststroke (1:12.83), respectively.
Other top-three placements for the Bears included Rachael (second in the 50-yard freestyle), Sam Azzalina (second in the 100-yard freestyle), Reece Readinger (second in the 200-yard individual medley), freshman Owen Gensemer (second in the 200-yard freestyle, third in the 500-yard freestyle), sophomore Donovan Arnold (second in the 500-yard freestyle), Shelly (third in the 100-yard butterfly) and freshman Nevin Rutherford (third in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard backstroke).
The Lady Bears had similar success, winning all but one event. Junior Lexi Fink picked up two wins in the 200-yard individual medley (2:31.66) and 100-yard breaststroke (1:15.19) in addition to a win in the 200-yard medley relay with junior Katie Locker, sophomore Gabby Walsh and sophomore Mackenzie Batche. All three had victories in the 100-yard freestyle (1:02.54), 100-yard backstroke (1:04.59) and 100-yard butterfly (1:13.12), respectively.
Freshman Gabi Dabbs earned three wins on the night as well, taking the 500-yard freestyle (6:07.01) and winning both the 200-yard freestyle relay (with junior Camille Donahue, sophomore Megan Handshew and freshman Sierra Kapcsos) and the 400-yard freestyle relay (with Kapcsos, junior Rachel Handshew and sophomore Emily Kriner).
The remaining top-three finishers for Elizabethtown consisted of Kriner (second in the 500-yard freestyle), Camille Donahue (second in the 200-yard individual medley), freshman Charlotte Hershey (second in the 100-yard butterfly, third in the 200-yard individual medley), freshman Lilly Rutkowski (second in the 100-yard backstroke) and Megan Handshew (third in the 100-yard freestyle).
Olivia Faulhaber had the lone victory on the night for Manheim Central in the girls 50-yard freestyle.
The Lady Bears finish the year with an 8-3 record. They are guaranteed at least second place in Section Two and could potentially get a three-way share of the section title in the event of a Lampeter-Strasburg win over first-place Ephrata on Wednesday, Feb. 6. Meanwhile, the Elizabethtown boys are 6-5 on the season, tied for second in Section Two with Cocalico and Lancaster Catholic behind champion Conestoga Valley.
With the regular season over with, Elizabethtown is set to partake in the Lancaster-Lebanon League Championships at Wilson High School on Friday, Feb. 8, and Saturday, Feb. 9. There will be plenty of competition for the Bears this year, though Houck specifically highlighted Walsh, Fink and the Azzalinas as swimmers who could challenge for the league championship in their respective events.
“We got some people in events that we didn’t really think we would since the depth of the league is kind of sketchy,” he said. “It’s exciting to have freshmen get in multiple events. The unfortunate thing is that we’re in the second heat for a lot of those, but I think we’re gonna have some people compete for titles. Seeing kids on the podium would be cool, and giving everyone an opportunity to swim in that atmosphere is exciting. We haven’t had a ton of practice since last week, so it’ll be a challenge to get everyone in the right mindset.”