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Dresden free to swim 500 at districts

RADNOR >> Brooke Dresden was dismayed at her seed time, but unwavering in her objective Saturday.

The Penncrest senior was drawn in the fifth heat of seven of the 500 freestyle at the Central League Championships with a seed of 5:43.76 that didn’t reflect her quickest of the season in a clerical snafu. She had a consideration cut for the District 1 Championships in hand but was very much on the bubble.

Dresden alleviated doubt, taking seventh place in the event to clinch an auto standard with a lifetime-best 5:24.15.

“I told my parents I wanted to go out with a bang,” Dresden said. “I wanted to get that automatic cut and make sure this wasn’t my last meet with my team. And it wasn’t, so I’m pretty excited about that.”

Dresden dominated her heat, and while it wasn’t the prodigious time drop the program suggested, it represented a tidy trim. It also met the goal many enter the first installment of the postseason with, ensuring Dresden will swim her favored event at districts a third straight season.

“That was my goal,” Dresden said. “I was hopeful because the 5:29 is the consideration time, but I wanted to get the auto time being a senior and this being my last year.”

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The last name is the same. The first name is as close to identical as you can get.

But the swimmers occupying steps five and six on the 100 backstroke podium wore colors of different schools.

Jake Booth, a junior from Strath Haven, and Jack Booth, a Springfield senior, are cousins. Long ago, they were teammates at the shuttered De La Salle in Springfield, before finding new summer clubs.

Separated by nine months and one letter, the Booths were reunited for a group photo Saturday.

Jake got the better of his older cousin, claiming fifth place in 56.78 seconds to edge Jack (57.25).

“That was great,” Jack said. “I think I made the podium freshman year; just to make it again senior year for an individual event is rewarding. And I’m proud of him for getting that time.”

Both swear the naming is mere coincidence, though Jake admits to answering to “Jack” for years, since they looked more alike in their youth. The shared specialty is happenstance, too, as Jake gravitates toward distance, while Jack is a sprinter and converted butterflier.

As they made nice for the cameras Saturday, Jake kept the results in the proper perspective.

“It’s nicer being on top than standing below him,” he said. “That was the best part of it, honestly.”

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Lower Merion’s Anna Kalandadze poses with her certificate after winning the Central League championship in the 500 freestyle Saturday. Kalandadze set pool and meet records with her time of 4:50.48.

First place in the girls meet was invariably cloaked in shades of maroon Saturday. Conestoga, which claimed the combined league crown, won three of five events, the other two claimed by Lower Merion.

The record board, meanwhile, remains in tatters.

Madison Ledwith, who won the 100 fly Friday, doubled down by claiming the 100 free in 51.95 seconds, erasing meet and Radnor pool records set in 1991 by Conestoga’s Holly Kleiderlien (52.54).

Ledwith’s record barely lasted 26 minutes, with Caroline Famous undercutting it in the 400 free relay at 51.39, joining Ledwith, Caroline Apathy and Sophia Poeta to win in record time of 3:32.28. No points for guessing that Famous won the 100 back in 56.54, downing Maddie Hart’s meet record from 2016 (though a Hart pool mark survived by a tenth).

The damage in the 500 free was just as convincing. Lower Merion’s Anna Kalandadze won in 4:50.48, a personal best that emphatically evicted Radnor great Kali Quinn’s mark of 4:59.21 that stood since 1983.

For Kalandadze, who trains at Radnor Aquatic Club, familiarity with the mark brings extra meaning.

“It’s definitely a great honor,” she said. “I feel really lucky that I could get a record. It’s kind of like a dream.”

Kalandadze’s teammate Alex Marlow pulled a surprise when she surged to best top-seeded Gab Rudy of Ridley with a time of 1:05.21 in the 100 breaststroke. Both she and Rudy (1:05.55) were under the meet/pool record held since 2012 by Garnet Valley’s Lauren Early (1:05.98).

Saturday’s effacing of the board ensured that the three oldest girls swimming marks — Kleiderlein’s, Quinn’s and Danielle Mackey’s in the 200 IM, downed by Madison Kolessar Friday — were erased. Combined, they had stood for 92 years.

By the way, all three swimmers went on to win state titles in those years.

***

NOTES >> After struggling with a back injury, Strath Haven’s Camille Jablonski made an impressive statement in the 100 breast, taking fourth and trouncing the next-to-last heat in 1:08.46. It was an aggressive swim that bodes well for her postseason. … The two wins by Haverford’s boys were the only check on the runaway train of Conestoga. Brendan Burns won the 100 free in 45.42, while Brian McKenrick coasted to the 100 back title in 50.74. They joined Kevin Ryle and Evan Zhou in winning the 400 free relay in 3:09.83, a pool and meet record. Conestoga comfortably won the team crown.

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