It was a banner weekend for the Appoquinimink swim teams at the Blue Hen Conference Championships as both teams put forth impressive performances.
The Lady Jaguars had a standout regular season, going 12-2 as a team. They picked up right where they left off over the weekend in the Blue Hen Conference Championships, placing first for their first-ever conference title in swimming as a program.
“They clawed their way to a victory fighting each race for each and every place on the scoreboard,” said Appo girls’ Head Coach David Shinton. “We told the girls that each race would matter, whether they were first or 12th, that’s how important it was going to be.”
“We ended up winning by about 20 points, a small margin for a big meet.”
Appo took both the girls’ overall conference title and the dual-meet title last weekend led by some impressive performances.
Three girls’ competitors finished the conference championships with two individual victories; senior Alexis DeIonno placed first in the girls 50 Freestyle and 100 Butterfly, sophomore Marissa Bittner took first in the 200 Individual Medley and 500 Freestyle, while fellow sophomore Emma Forman finished in the top spot in both the 100 Freestyle and 100 Backstroke.
DeIonno, Bittner and Forman, along with Avery Thomas, won both the 200 Medley and 400 Freestyle Relay races for Appo.
Thomas also had a third place finish in two events, the 50 Freestyle and 100 Freestyle. Joining Thomas with top finishes were Ali Candy (4th in 200 Freestyle), Kourtney McNatt (3rd in 100 Breaststroke) and Abby Morris (5th in 100 Freestyle).
McNatt, Morris, Candy and Alexa Dolan took second in the 200 Free Relay for the Lady Jags.
The conference championship victory for the Lady Jags is especially sweet considering all they had to overcome this season.
“What led us to success this year was the drive and determination to get better each day,” Shinton said. “Hands down we have the hardest schedule in the state of Delaware.”
No adequate space to practice led to long days and nights for the team, a sacrifice they made to make what happened over the weekend possible.
“Our district has done nothing to help provide us with a pool, or get us a decent pool to practice in,” Shinton said. “We practice 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at night at Delaware Swim and Fitness by the Delaware Memorial Bridge, getting the swimmers home anywhere between 10:30 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. each night. This has helped drive us to be the best.”
While the Lady Jags posted their first conference title ever, the boys earned their highest finish in the conference championships, placing third overall.
“I think this was a absolutely huge accomplishment for our team,” said Matt Brown, Head Coach of the boys’ team at Appo. “They have overcome so much during the season, from last night practice hours, to the number of meets and transportation issues - but through it all they always kept their heads up.”
“By the time the last race (400 Free Relay) came, they knew they were out of first place contention, but that didn’t stop them from winning one of the most exciting races of the season and beating the school record by six seconds.”
After finishing the season 10-4 as a team, also the best mark in team history, the Jags moved on to the conference champions led by some talented swimmers who showcased their skills among the best the Blue Hen has to offer.
Kevin Lewke was Appo’s lone top finisher, placing first in the 200 Individual Medley for the boys’ team.
Lewke, RJ Dawson, Garrett Parthmore and Andrew Pao took first in the boys 400 Freestyle Relay.
Other individual standouts included Pao, who took fourth in the 50 Freestyle, along with Trent Zuspann who took fifth in the 500 Freestyle.
The team of Lewke, Pao, Parthmore and Ben Miller placed fourth in the 200 Medley Relay.
“I know it’s a little cliche, but it really came down to heart,” Brown said. “This season, we knew we would have a small team which meant that everyone would have to step up and swim races they may not feel the most comfortable with. They would have to practice that much harder and believe that much more in themselves and their fellow swimmers. Even if they lost a race, we always looked to the next race or the next meet.”
“I’m incredibly proud of each one of the boys, with everything they had to deal with, to do what they did at conferences and to have the season they did, it’s just incredible.”