Swimming Title Streak
Published: February 28, 2013
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As usual, Abington Heights was expected to be a strong contender for the Wyoming Valley Conference Northern Division girls swimming title this year.
Once again, the Lady Comets rose to the occasion, grinding out a successful title defense, more than meeting the expectations of girls head coach Mary Gromelski.
"We knew we were strong, but you never know because there are so many strong kids in the area," Gromelski said. "I knew we had a shot."
A simple and common theme, swimming them one at a time, drove the Lady Comets to their title and has them in line to peak at the District 2 Class AAA Championships this weekend.
"The kids are looking forward to districts," Gromelski said. "But they went meet by meet; they took it as it came to them. They went out and swam the way they normally swim. They were like, we have Valley View next, we have to beat Valley View. They took them one by one."
"They really did meet expectations," she continued. "They pulled together, working hard, pushing each other, watching out for each other."
There were a few scares along the way, but Abington Heights persevered and won all its divisional meets.
"We had a couple of tough meets that we won by a few points," Gromelski said. "The Holy Redeemer meet, that came down to the last relay."
Controversy ensued when questions about the final score came up, but the Lady Comets came away with the victory in the non-division meet and carried that momentum through the season. Of course, there was another meet that meant quite a bit to Abington Heights.
"Scranton Prep, they're always strong and we had to stay on top of things," Gromelski said. "They're always tough."
Once again, the Lady Comets' greatest strength may not have been any one particular swimmer, but their outstanding depth. It gave Gromelski flexibility and versatility, without having to overwork any swimmer at any time.
"We always seem to have a large team," Gromelski said. "It [the lineup] depends on who we are swimming againt. We train them hard so they can go out hard."
But Gromelski does not have to go with the same kids in the same events every meet, with numbers to sit somebody who is struggling or just tired, and be able to be replaced by a similar-caliber swimmer.
That depth always ensures the Lady Comets put out a full compliment of swimmers in every meet, picking up points just by having a competitor available.
"We're always able to fill lanes," Gromelski said. "It helps us fill lanes and give us full relay teams."
With four swimmers making up each relay team, three teams max for each relay race and three relay races per meet, that is 36 legs to fill, with no one able to compete in more than four events in any meet.
"Even if we know that we can't get a first-place finish, we can get a second, third and fourth, or second third and fifths," Gromelski said. "It's an advantage."
There are plenty of standouts on the team, led by sophomore Rachel Smertz, who swam primarily in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle.
"We can put her anywhere," Gromelski said. "She does what we need her to do."
Gromelski said the following about the rest of her team standouts:
- On sophomore Sydney Gualtieri (100 breaststroke): "She made it to states last year, our only individual winner."
- On senior Kristie Furiosi (50 freestyle, 100 butterfly): "She's one of those kids who has heart. She's always there for us; she's one of our stronger girls."
- On junior Krista Brickel (100 backstroke, 200 and 500 freestyle): "She's our strongest distance swimmer, and the back is one of the hardest strokes."
- On sophomore Hannah Conahan (200 individual medley, 100 butterfly): "Her technique is flawless and she's a real spit-fire."
- On junior Chloe Sweeney (50, 100, 200, 500 freestyle): "Usually one is a sprinter or a distance swimmer, but she does them all."
- On seniors Maria Gibson (200, 500 frees) and Kasey Feather (100 backstroke): "Their times are dropping heading into districts."
- On junior Annie Gromelski (diving): "She got us a lot of points we needed getting first or seconds all year."
The division title streak could continue as Gromelski sees a bright future for the program.
"We don't know what's coming up, but we've got a good group coming back," Gromelski said.
That should be enough for the Abington Heights program to make another run at a successful title defense again.