Liberty and Freedom’s first dual league swim meet of the year went swimmingly for the Lions. The varsity boys won 120-48, and it appears that the varsity girls were also victorious, leading 90-74 in the swimming competition. The Liberty girls victory won’t be official, however, until the diving competition takes place on April 23.
But Liberty Coach Erica Pantle likes her chances: “I don’t want to count chickens before they are hatched, but one of our divers (Megan Leyen) was a top diver last year as a junior. Unless something major happens, we should be able to hold on for the win.”
The Liberty girls were undefeated in dual league meets last year, but finished in second place after the BVAL finals. They might be challenged to repeat that success this season because they field fewer swimmers, leaving open slots in some events and making it tougher to score enough points for a team victory. “Although I have a group of hard-working girls, if you don’t have enough to fill the events, it’s pretty tough to win meets,” said Pantle. “I am hoping and keeping my fingers crossed that we can possibly get second again or third.
“Heritage’s team this year is loaded with year-round swimmers, on the girls side especially, with twice as many or maybe three times as many girls. They are probably going to be the team to beat. Deer Valley always has a really strong team as well. Deer Valley won it last year. I am hoping to be in the top three with the girls.”
On the plus side, more boys have come out for Liberty’s swim team this season than in Pantle’s previous 16 years of coaching at Liberty. “This is the first time the boys team has ever been larger than the girls team,” she said. The boys finished third last year, but she’s hoping for second or better this season. “With the guys, I don’t know that much about the other teams. I do know that I feel like I have a very versatile group of boys and I can swim them in different events. That’s a good thing because I can move them around as I need to (score the most points in meets). If they continue working really hard and push each other in practice the way they have been, I am hoping to be able to win it all, but second is a realistic goal for them.”
Pantle was pleased with the Freedom meet. “I thought overall everyone swam very well – on the guys side for sure,” she said. “Probably the best performance of the day was Joey Cecchini in the 500-yard freestyle (5:09). What’s really amazing is his fastest time up to that was a 5:24. That’s all hard work right there.”
Elizabeth Day knocked off even more time – more than a half minute – in the 20-lap 500, winning it with a 5:56 finish. “Although that’s not really a blistering time, it’s still for her her best time going in. She’s a senior and this is a new event for her. She said, ‘I want to try to swim the 500 this year.’ It’s not an event that a lot of kids volunteer to swim. It can be a pretty grueling race, for sure. It takes someone who can keep the same pace for lap after lap after lap. She has just been shaving time off, big hunks of time coming off – a 30-second time drop is really significant. You can’t say enough about working hard in practice and reaping the benefits of hard work.
“I can’t say enough about the whole team in general and how well they have been practicing. They have been doing very well – very focused. So I have been very happy with that. With the exception of about maybe two swims in the entire meet, they were all best times.”
Other standouts for Liberty were Logan Trudell, who posted a personal best time in the 100-yard backstroke; Tyler Lightfoot, who dropped two seconds off of his 100-yard breaststroke time; J.T. Sarmento, who took two second-place finishes; and Scott Milne, who pared two seconds from his best time in the 200-yard freestyle.
The standout swimmer for the Freedom boys was Justin Stafford, who won perhaps the premiere event, the 50-yard freestyle, in 23.28 and followed it with a victory in the 100-yard freestyle at 53.06. On the girls side, Sierra MacIntyre won the individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke, Emily Harris won the 50-yard freestyle and Arielle Hilsenbeck took the butterfly.