2023 IAAM A & B Conference Championships
- February 5, 2023
- Baltimore, Md.
- SCY (25 yards)
Courtesy: IAAM Sports
The battle for the A Conference swimming title went right down to wire — the 400-yard freestyle relay — on Sunday amid the bedlam at Loyola University Maryland’s Mangione Aquatic Center.
Holding a precarious 373-370 advantage over eventual runner-up Notre Dame Prep, Bryn Mawr came through to earn the program’s first-ever A Conference swimming banner. Seniors Caitlin Hurley, Grace Black and Logan Betkey and junior Blair Wehman touched home in 3:31.07 in the meet’s final and deciding event while senior Alina Zavala, junior Tess Lankford and freshmen Krysta Blaha and Carly Bendis posted a 3:35.34 for the Blazers.
Bryn Mawr, which completed its second straight undefeated regular season with a resounding win over six-time defending champion McDonogh in a dual meet a couple of weeks ago, knew there would be plenty of competition from Notre Dame Prep and McDonogh throughout the showdown.
The Mawrtians faced a similar situation last year when they won eight of 11 events and still finished behind the Eagles in the championship meet.
Bryn Mawr did even better in 2023, winning every event on the way to a 413-404 triumph over NDP and McDonogh (378). Archbishop Spalding (278) and Mount de Sales (242) followed.
The victory marks the first time that a team other than McDonogh (15 titles) or NDP (7) claimed an A Conference crown.
The Mawrtians’ mission started a year ago, according to coach Matt Hetrick.
“We knew it was going to be real close and come down to the last race — and it did,” he said. “We knew for our school and our athletes that this was a once-in-a-lifetime group. It was 365 days ago when I met with the juniors and we talked about winning it next year and now I can say we did. Or more accurately, they (his swimmers) did.”
He pointed to Wehman as an unsung hero for swimming in relay finals for the first time, with senior Margaret Belbot also getting kudos for winning the 100 butterfly and 100 free in back-to-back events.
That said, all of Bryn Mawr’s standouts performed at peak proficiency, with the entire contingent taking a bow for the unprecedented feat.
“Last year, we came so close,” said Betkey, a Rice University swimming commit. “We knew this year that the stars would align.”
She said that once junior Mabel Koff won the 100 breaststroke in the event before the final relay, the Mawrtians knew a victory was at hand.
“We had the math locked and loaded,” said Betkey, who never lost a race in the championship meet during her four years on the varsity.
All three teams jostled for first place throughout the battle, with Bryn Mawr getting off to a good start behind Black, Belbot, Hoff and Wehman, who took the 200-yard medley relay in 1:46.87 — slightly off the pace of last year’s meet mark also set by the Mawrtians, but good enough to edge McDonogh seniors Summer McKoy, Natalia Diaz and Taylor Wilson and sophomore Sammy Randell (1:47.49).
Depth came into play in the first individual event, the 200 freestyle, with NDP garnering 43 points to Bryn Mawr’s 36 even though Hurley (1:50.35) topped Lankford (1:51.65). Wehman and junior Shelby Jackson also scored for the Mawrtians while Zavala, junior Ashley Ellsworth and freshman Olivia Vanderwinckel helped the Blazers’ cause.
The Mawrtians showed their strength at the top in the 200 individual medley with Koff (2:01.71) and Black (2:06.41) setting the pace over McDonogh’s Diaz and NDP freshman Carley Bendis.
Bryn Mawr kept up its winning ways in the 50 free, with Betkey (23.57) touching first ahead of Archbishop Spalding sophomore Natalie Lomonosov (25.55). McKoy and junior Mary Marquez pitched in for the Eagles while seniors Lauren Helminiak and Madison Ferraci and freshman Betsy Melchionni added to NDP’s cause.
Bryn Mawr led at that point, 146-140, over McDonogh and NDP (139).
That trend continued in the 100 butterfly with Belbot (56.78) beating Randell (57.39) for top honors, although McDonogh scored 43 points to NDP’s 39 and Bryn Mawr’s 33. Other McDonogh scorers included senior Taylor McNerney and Gennie Matanoski while senior Bernadette Ramoy, sophomore Madison Stover and freshman Mina Stover did the same for NDP. Bryn Mawr’s other scorers were Jackson and freshman Isha Chaudhuri.
The Eagles jumped ahead at that juncture, 183-179, over the Mawrtians, who bounced back when Betkey (51.33) and Belbot (52.82) went 1-2 in the 100 free with Blaha (53.26) and Lomonosov (53.75) next.
Bryn Mawr and McDonogh were deadlocked at 221 after the 100 free until the Mawrtians jumped ahead following the 200 free relay behind Betkey, Belbot, Koff and Hurley (1:35.77) touching the wall ahead of McDonogh’s McCoy, Wilson, Diaz and sophomore Jenna Cowley (1:37.83). NDP’s Feracci, Helminiak, Blaha and Ramoy (1:40.82) also scored.
Hurley (4:54.38) maintained Bryn Mawr’s winning streak in the 500 free with Lankford (5:02.50), McDonogh sophomore Grace Scharper (5:15.60) and Wehman (5:14.87) following as the Mawrtians widened their margin to 267-255 over NDP.
The 100 backstroke also went Bryn Mawr’s way with Black (55.85) motoring ahead of Wilson (58.42) and McKoy (58.73) to keep the Mawrtians ahead by 12 points until the Blazers pulled to within 373-370 following the 100 breaststroke when Koff (1:04.94) beat Diaz (1:05.76), Ramoy (1:06.62) and NDP freshman Kelsey Ciliberto (1:07.76).
That set up the dramatic conclusion to a historic meet.
“I’m amazed and so proud of our team that we were able to pull this off,” Betkey said.
McDonogh coach Scott Ward noted the challenges that Bryn Mawr hurdled to reach the top.
“Congratulations to Bryn Mawr,” he said. “I thought our Eagle swimmers had a great meet, but Matt deserves a lot of credit for coaching his swimmers. He’s not a club coach, so what they just did is really hard to do.”
In the B Conference, heavy favorite Maryvale lived up to that billing, leading the entire meet in beating defending champion Severn, 482-356 Roland Park Country School (378), Archbishop Spalding (278) and Mount de Sales Academy (242) trailed the leaders. It was the second title for the Lions in three years under coaches Maria O’Brien and Jared Welsh.
The Lions were first in the 200 medley relay (sophomores Julia Mihok and Holly Hirsch, freshmen Ava Vercollone and Ali Thompson, 1:51.64), 200 free relay (senior Lily Mihok, junior Alanna O’Brien, Thompson and freshman Lilly Nicholas, 1:43.46), 200 free (Vercollone, 1:52.99), 200 IM (Hirsch, 2:08.20), 100 fly (freshman Ayla Pohlhaus, 1:01.80), 100 free (Nicholas, 54.64), 100 back (Hirsch, 57.89), 100 breaststroke (Vercollone, 1:06.30) and 400 free relay (Vercollone, Polhaus, Hirsch and Nicholas, 3:41.86).
Severn prevailed in the 50 free (sophomore Kenzie Getz, 25.33) and 500 free (junior Aliza Monaldo, 5:03.71).
“All of our girls had really great swims,” O’Brien said. “Their energy was spectacular.”