Four-For-Four: Villa Maria Girls Win 4th-Straight Pennsylvania AA Championship

The seniors at Villa Maria Academy in Malvern, Pennsylvania, a far-western suburb of Philadelphia, don’t have much experience in losing. On Saturday night at Bucknell University they won their 4th-straight Pennsylvania AA State Championship.

They started the meet out with a new Division Record in the 200 medley relay of 1:46.57. The winning team of Emily Cornell (26.37), Olivia Tierney (30.52), Olivia Giampietro (25.49), and Julie Dobson (24.19) won the race by over a second.

Southern Lehigh took 2nd in 1:48.09, and Phoenixville Area High School was a 1:49.06 for 3rd.

Shortly after that win, West York freshman Courtney Harnish made a statement of her own. While she accounted for the bulk of her team’s scoring as they finished 14th, but as an individual she was the talk of the town on Saturday.

She took her first win in the 200 free with a 1:45.91. That smoked the PIAAA Class AA Record by well over a second, and pulled her within a second of Meaghan Raab’s overall state record.

She then blew away another AA record on the meet’s second day with a 4:40.04 in the 500 free – almost four seconds faster than the old standard and almost nine seconds ahead of runner-up Mia Nonnenberg (4:48.82).

Harnish is just two weeks away from the 2014 YMCA Short Course Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she’ll expect to be even faster.

That was a second silver medal for Nonneberg, following an early 2nd-place finish in the 200 IM with a 2:00.88.

In that race, she placed 2nd behind another young star, Allie Szekely of Gwynedd Mercy Academy, who was a 1:59.51. Szekely and Nonnenberg were almost even throughout the race, save for Szekely’s specialty the breaststroke which made most of the difference in this race.

Szekely would add a second win not in the breaststroke, however; rather she topped the 100 backstroke in 54.55, placing a full second ahead of Villa Maria’s Emily Cornell, who took 2nd in 55.52.

Winning the breaststroke in Szekely’s absence was Lauren Barber, who swam a 103.05 to best Maddie Cooke’s 1:03.53. Cooke is another impressive freshmen among the Pennsylvania small schools, and in fact is one of three freshmen who placed in the top 5 (sub-1:06’s) in this race.

The sprint queen of the day was Adriana Grabski from Mifflinburg, who took the 50 free on Friday, and then with an extended break thanks to the split Pennsylvania state meet schedule added a 49.88 in the 100 free. Those swims just missed her lifetime bests, but what’s really scary is that the 200 free is her best event in yards. The entries were a wise decision though, as she topped both of the sprint events as Mifflinburg’s only entered swimmer in the meet.

Rebecca Luft of Northern York gave her team a win in the 100 fly with a 54.91. She went out very hard in a 25.4 and then continued to pull away on the back half. She was part of Northern York’s 4th-place effort as a team.

But Villa Maria, who didn’t win a single individual event, overwhelmed the competition with incredible relay depth for a school with only 439 students. After winning the 200 medley relay, they added wins in the 200 free relay (1:36.41) and he 400 free relay (3:30.09).

Top 10 team scores:

1. Villa Maria 220
2. Nazareth Academy 131
3. Southern Lehigh 130
4. Northern York 115
5. Scranton Prep 101
6. Gwynedd Mercy Academy 100
7. Phoenixville 99
8. Fairview 95
9. York Suburban 87
10. Springfield Township 86

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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