by Tom Utescher

Hosting the swimmers of Springside School last Wednesday afternoon, Penn Charter sped off to gain an overwhelming lead and then eased up on the gas, racing in the last few events on an exhibition basis to arrive at a 100-68 victory.

The PC Quakers are a long-established team which tied for the Girls Inter-Ac Championship last winter, while the Springside franchise is only a few years old, and has no swimming pool of its own. The Lions are not without talent (enough to win their Inter-Ac opener against the Academy of Notre Dame), but there are only 14 athletes on the roster, and five of them are seventh and eighth graders.

Chris McGinley, a former assistant coach who moved up to the head post this year, put it this way: “If I could double the size of our team just by duplicating the girls we have, we’d be competitive with a lot of the stronger teams around.”

Last week the Lions returned home from School House Lane with an overall record of 1-5 and a league mark of 1-4. Springside had a close non-league loss to Gwynedd Mercy Academy, another landlocked team that schedules home meets at the La Salle High School pool.

With a confrontation with Episcopal Academy still on the agenda (PC eclipsed EA last season by winning the final relay event) Penn Charter’s lone loss thus far has come against Germantown Academy, which has reloaded and is churning up the chlorine with one of its strongest teams in recent years. The Quakers have beaten Springside, Agnes Irwin, and Baldwin in Inter-Ac meets, and have also defeated Lawrenceville School.

Last Wednesday’s meet began with a PC victory in the 200 yard medley relay, as the quartet of (in racing order) freshman Ariel Barber, junior Rebecca Mount, senior Kyle Bonus, and sophomore Meredith Wurtz completed the event in 2:02.83.

While she is an accomplished swimmer, Bonus is actually a springboard specialist who will attend the University of New Hampshire. She won the diving competition later on in last week’s meet. Charter’s anchor for the relay, Wurtz, transferred to Penn Charter this year from Springside, where her winter sport was squash.

Less than two seconds behind the winning foursome was another Quakers relay team composed of Catie Skinner (the 2010 Pa. Independent Schools cross country champion), Maria Georgiou, Carly Zurcher, and Margaret Rollins. All are sophomores save Rollins, a senior.

Springside was third in the relay at 2:06.72 with a foursome made up of senior Taylor Apostolico and juniors Alex Stein, Dena O’Larnic, and Aleah Welsh.

In individual competition, PC’s Georgiou won the 500 freestyle event (5:35.53) and Wurtz was runner-up. Wurtz won the 50 free (26.42 seconds), just ahead of Rollins, while Skinner won the 200 individual medley (2:22.94) and was second in the 100 free. Another participant in the opening relay event, Zurcher, was first to the wall in the butterfly later on (1:03.04).

Quakers senior Caitlin Daly triumphed in the 100 free ((56.92) and placed second in the 200 I.M., and freshman Glynis Braun won the 200 free (2:10.56) and finished third in the 500.

For Springside, O’Larnic placed second in the butterfly, and Molly Stein (twin sister of Alex) was runner-up in the 200 free and was third in the fly.

Charter went one-two in the 200 freestyle relay, with the victorious Barber, junior Lela Garner, Daly, and Bonus (1:54.59) checking in less than a second ahead of senior Eliza McGoldrick, Rollins, Mount, and junior Marion Hirshberg. McGoldrick and Hirshberg had already made third-place showings in the 50 free and the 200 free, respectively.

Springside placed third in the 200 free relay with junior Haley Lombardo (who was also third in the 100 free), seventh-grader Megan Karoly, Molly Stein, and Welsh.

In the last three events of the meet, Penn Charter coach Paul Coleman entered his athletes as exhibition swimmers, allowing the Lions to narrow the gap in the team score.

Springside officially captured the top three places in the backstroke thanks to Apostolico (1:06.08), O’Larnic, and eighth-grader Brooke Fireman, although PC’s Garner – off the record – turned in a time of 1:00.04 in the race.

Alex Stein (1:20.25), Karoly, and senior Becca Chasar went one-two-three in the breaststroke, but the fastest (unofficial) times belonged to the Quakers’ Barber (1:16.17) and Georgiou (1:16.73).

Springside put its most experienced and talented swimmers together in the 400 free relay at the end of the meet, and here the visitors had the best winning time on or off the books, at 3:38.41. The Lions’ line-up consisted of Apostolico, O’Larnic, and Alex and Molly Stein.