by Tom Utescher

Against an improving Gwynedd Mercy Academy swim team, it took awhile for Mount St. Joseph to take control last Wednesday evening, but the Magic eventually did, winning their final outing of the regular season, 55-38.

The Mount moved ahead for good in the team scoring in the 50-yard freestyle, the fourth event in the program, and went on to achieve a record of 3-2 within the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies and 5-4 overall. In the league, the Magic defeated Gwynedd, Merion Mercy, and newcomer Villa Joseph Marie, while falling to powerhouse Villa Maria. The Magic also lost to Nazareth Academy by four points on a day when they were missing one of their top performers, junior Christina Formica.

Gwynedd, which closed the gap in the team point totals last Wednesday by winning the final two races, came away with an overall record still well to the plus side, at 6-2-1. Like the Mount, GMA defeated Villa Joe and Merion and lost to Nazareth, but the Monarchs had to cancel their head-to-head meeting with Villa Maria, so their league record leveled off at 2-2.

Both the Mount and Gwynedd use the La Salle High School pool as their home venue, and for Senior Night last week the gallery was packed, making for quite a din at the old four-lane facility. The Magic recognized their three seniors, Maria Finnegan, Jen Lehman, and Lexi Meister, who are the team tri-captains. The only one of the three who has finalized her college plans is Meister, who has signed with Bucknell University for crew.

On the other end of the age spectrum, Gwynedd has a budding superstar in freshman Allie Szekely, who is already well known in swimming circles. She made an immediate impact last Wednesday as a member of the Monarchs’ medley relay team, combining with Kieragh McMenamin, Molly Riemenschneider, and Shannon Brown to win that race in one minute, 55.83 seconds. In second was a Mount foursome made up of sophomore Haley Sannem, freshman Liz DeGroat, junior Christine Sipos, and Lehman. The third-place quartet consisted of MSJ sophomore Jenny DiPietro, junior Julie Sowa, Formica, and freshman Katie Zimmerman.

MSJ sophomore Steph Eble was timed in 2:04.52 as she won the 200-yard freestyle, where she was followed to the wall by Gwynedd’s Mary Kate Curley and her own Mount teammate, Meister.

Szekely was in the water for the next event and that meant a victory for Gwynedd, as the ninth-grader wrapped up the 200 individual medley in 2:01.58. DeGroat was the runner-up for the Magic, with GMA’s Riemenschneider in third. The outcome gave the Monarchs a 14-12 advantage in the overall meet score.

Mount St. Joe gained a lead and then reinforced it with one-two finishes in the next three events.

Junior Jesse Dolan won the 50 free in 26.65 seconds with Lehman right behind her, and third place went to Gwynedd’s Brown. In the butterfly, Sipos (1:02.23) and Meister secured the top two spots for the Magic, with Reimenschneider snagging third for the Monarchs.

Dolan was back in action for the 100 free, coming in second to her victorious teammate, Sannem (58.74 seconds). Gwynedd got third thanks to Emily Fesnak, whose older sister, Chrissy, was a volleyball standout at Mount St. Joseph.

The Magic’s lead in the team score grew to 26 points (47-21) when Eble won her second event, putting up a time of 5:27.53 in the 500 free. Curley came in second for the Monarchs, with Mount junior Georgia Kelly in third.

The Mounties then captured their only relay win of the evening, posting a time of 1:47.67 through the efforts of Dolan, DeGroat, Meister, and Lehman. In second were the Magic’s Zimmerman, Katelin Cordero (a freshman), Sipos, and Eble. Making up Gwynedd’s third-place foursome were Brown, McMenamin, Claire Lacon, and Curley.

The Monarchs finished with a flourish, winning each of the last three events. McMenamin proved the best of the backstrokers, with her time of 1:07.59 putting her ahead of the Mount’s Formica and Sannem. The breast stroke is one of Szekely’s specialties, and she won in 1:04.71, ahead of DeGroat and Sowa of Mount St. Joe. Szekely has already set a new school record in the event, as well as in the individual medley.

In the final race, the 400 free relay, the Mount’s Dolan, Formica, Meister, and Eble faced the GMA quartet of Curley, Fesnak, Brown, and Szekely. Halfway through the race the teams were almost dead even, but by the end of the third leg Gwynedd had edged ahead by a yard-and-a-half. The gap grew considerably during the anchor leg, as Szekley brought the Monarchs home half-a-length of the pool ahead of the Magic.

Third place went to MSJ’s Zimmerman, Sipos, Sannem, and Lehman.