by Tom Utescher
Mount St. Joseph Academy swimmer Katie O’Connell made the most of her team’s Senior Night, setting a school record in the 50-yard freestyle and establishing a new personal best in the 100 freestyle as the Magic defeated Gwynedd Mercy Academy last Thursday evening, 58-33.
The contest took place at La Salle High School, where both the Mount (4-2 in dual meets) and Gwynedd (5-3) host their “home” meets.
In the 50 free, O’Connell churned to victory in a time of 25.31 seconds, eclipsing the old mark of 25.34 set way back in 1998 by Katie Gottschalk. She also won the 100, turning in her fastest time ever, 56.27. The senior’s primary sport is actually rowing, and she signed with Boston’s Northeastern University in November. She earned a spot on the U.S. Junior Developmental Team last summer, and is a member of the Mount’s highly successful varsity eight boat.
A Mount St. Joe swimming record of a more recent vintage had fallen in the Magic’s road win over Nazareth Academy on January 20. Steph Eble, who has enjoyed an outstanding freshman season this winter, went 5:20.09 in the 500-yard freestyle, breaking the 2011 standard of 5:20.49 achieved by Alex Sullivan.
Last Thursday both teams honored their departing seniors in ceremonies prior to the actual racing. In addition to O’Connell, Mount St. Joe recognized fellow tri-captains Taylor Held and Dana Zielinski, along with classmates Miranda Rafferty, Laura and Yasmin Mahmoudian, and team manager Olivia Scanlon. Like O’Connell, Zielinski is a varsity eight rower for the Mount, and she accepted a scholarship to Clemson University back in the fall.
Gwynedd bid adieu to one of the largest senior classes in the history of its swimming program, a group consisting of Monica Bradley, Kathleen Cardell, Sara Cassidy, Meg Curley, Lizzy Hee, Rachel Tumulo, Meaghan Williams, and Annalise Zaengle.
The Mount’s Zielinski was a very close second in the 100 freestyle and was also runner-up in the individual medley, and her classmate, Rafferty, placed second in the 50 free. The two seniors also raced in the medley relay and the 400 yard freestyle relay. Sophomore Christina Formica went double-gold, winning both the butterfly (1:03.86) and the 200 free (2:04.96).
The freshman class was well represented, with a triumph in the individual
medley by Eble (2:23.03), a first-place finish in the backstroke from Haley Sannem (1:08.90), and a victory in the 500 free by Georgia Kelly (5:53.40). Mount St. Joe picked up second-place points from four sophomores; Brynn McGovern (backstroke), Catherine Palmer (butterfly), Christine Sipos (200 free), and Julie Sowa (breast stroke).
Gwynedd’s Zaengle, who aspires to swim in college, won the breast stroke in 1:14.09, and she placed third in two other events, the 100 free and the individual medley. MaryKate Curley came in second in the 500 freestyle, where third place went to GMA teammate Emily Fesnak.
Fesnak captured third place in the 200 free, as well, and Bradley also placed third in two different events, the 50 free and the breast stroke. Other third-place finishes for the Monarchs came from Cardell in the butterfly, and Tumolo in the backstroke.
At the beginning of the meet, the Mount’s Eble and Zielinski joined forces with sophomore Jessie Dolan and junior Jen Lehman to win the medley relay (2:01.17). By the middle of the meet, the Magic’s lead had reached a point where the Mounties decided to race the other two relays on an “exhibition” basis, foregoing any team points in those events. The official winners in the 200 free relay were Gwynedd’s Tumulo, Katie Dunphy, Bradley, and Fesnak (1:54.70), and in the 400-yard contest the victory was awarded to the Monarchs quartet of Fesnak, Sara Cassidy, Molly Riemenschneider, and Zaengle (4:08.06).
The first two foursomes to actually finish the 400 free relay were one made up entirely of Mount seniors (Held/Rafferty/O’Connell/Zielinski) and another consisting of four MSJ freshmen (Maggie Schoeller/Kelly/Sannem/ Eble).