Girls swim team rallies to beat Freedom
Trailing by two points heading into the final race against Freedom, the Whitehall girls swim team knew exactly what they had to do.
In order to pull out the come-from-behind victory, they needed to claim two of the top three spots to walk out of the Patriots natatorium with a win.
It was a tall task, but head coach Pete Rile was prepared for the moment. He and his staff had scouted the Pates and had devised a plan for such a scenario. He said that they did some research, digging into what they could find about them after not competing against them for the last couple of years, and then started relearning about Freedom.
“We gathered as much information as we could, and as a result, we thought we had a good idea what the plan had to be,” said Rile. “We knew it was going to come down to the 400 free relay, and we thought we had enough left in the last couple of events [to pull it out].”
Throughout the meet, Rile said that they were accumulating points that put them in position to pull it out in the final race. Perhaps the linchpin race was the 200 relay that drew the Zephyrs within four points with three races remaining. That group overcame a huge Freedom advantage at the outset as Ella Holmes, Grace Urick, Rachael Alulis and Lindsay Solderitch combined for the win.
In both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays, Freedom opted to get out fast and hopefully build up a big advantage that would catapult them to victory. The strategy didn’t pay off as each time Whitehall made up ground during each subsequent leg, winning the 200 in 1:57.85, and the 400 in 4:14.68.
Rile’s study of their opponent worked as the Zephs took first and second in the 400 freestyle relay, and with it a 94-86 win over Freedom in a hotly contested meet.
As Freedom shot out to those early leads in the final two relays, Rile said that each swimmer “took a piece back” as they worked to narrow the gap in their respective legs. It was a great team effort in both races, as they needed all those points to come out victorious.
In the deciding 400 relay, Rile decided to split up his relay teams, placing his top sprinter, Martha Gilletto, as the anchor for the second-place finishers. She was part of a strong group along with Holmes, Maddie Kutney and Emily Thomas that helped seal the win. Kallie Lyle, their other strong freestyler, anchored the first-place finishers that included Hannah Miller, Bartosh and Solderitch.
“We knew we had to be in position to go at least one-three, so we split them up a little bit to have enough to win,” said Rile.
The win was also set up by a strong effort in the 100 backstroke. The Zephs eventually drew even at 75 when they took first and third in the race as Kallie Lyle finished first in 1:04.48, and Patricia Bartosh was third at 1:10.75.
However, the Pates took first and third in the 100 breaststroke to reclaim the lead.
It all came down to the 400 relay.
Rile said that the key was the ability of each relay swimmer to claim their share of the win after Freedom tried to dominate from the opening gun.
“If you look at all those pieces, everybody had enough, with each girl getting a quarter of a lap back, so every swimmer gained a piece, and when you put it all together, it was the total picture,” said Rile.
The win puts the girls at 3-2 on the season.
The boys dropped their meet 104-64, but Rile beloved it was their best performance to date. Rile said that the boys made it lot closer than he expected heading into the meet, and their effort throughout the meet netted two individual victories and one relay win.
One of the brightest moments came when Nikola Martinivic won the 200 freestyle in 53.28, securing a district berth in the process.
Martinivic was sidelined at the beginning of the season, and his presence last Thursday helped them grab some points against the Pates.
After touching the wall in the 200, Martinivic celebrated his achievement.
“He’s working hard and he qualified for districts for the first time in his life, and so he was all excited,” said Rile. “He’s been working at this since a junior, and his goal was to get there, and he got there.”
Also claiming first place was Daniel Jablonski who won the breaststroke in 1:05.39.
Rile said that the boys also posted some of their best times to date, a great effort from everyone who swam.
“It was an excellent meet,” Rile said. “We’re real thrilled with how it came out.”