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La Salle races to victory over Archbishop Wood

La Salle’s Patrick Cunningham in the 200 Medley Relay during the Explorers' meet against Archbishop Wood on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

SPRINGFIELD >> It’s the youngest La Salle team Stephen Duncheskie has ever coached.

“It’s a fun thing, it’s a challenge,” Duncheskie said Tuesday night down on the deck, “so it’ll be interesting at the end of the year — when all of the races get sorted out and we see who is swimming what — to really see how these guys are performing.

“I have four great graduating seniors, but I only have four. And so, so much of the bulk is young kids. So it’s been fun since November kind of watching them grow and I’ll be excited when we get to the end, to really see what they can do in the water. It’s gonna be pretty cool.”

Anticipation was raised even higher on Tuesday, as La Salle was impressive in a 57-34 Philadelphia Catholic League victory over rival Archbishop Wood.

Archbishop Wood’s Peter Gori in the 200 freestyle during the Vikings’ meet against La Salle on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

“We have a great relationship with them and obviously Charlie (Stillwell) is a great coach,” Duncheskie said. “Peter Gori is a good swimmer that they have over there and they have a collection of good athletes as well so it’s always good to swim them.”

Gori stood out for the Vikings, as the senior won the 200-yard freestyle and the 100 backstroke.

But the Explorers had a combination of seniors and the young guys racing fast to the wall, sweeping the relays and winning five of the eight individual events.

Senior Sam Grossi won the 100 free for La Salle, junior Matt Szekely was fastest in the 100 fly, and sophomores Patrick Cunningham (200 IM), Alex Patti (50 free) and Liam Smith (500 free) were all first in their races.

It wasn’t the times they wanted, but the places they needed.

“This time of year, we’re coming off exams, we’re coming off Eagles weekend — let’s be honest,” Duncheskie said of an enjoyable but busy week. “There’s a lot that’s involved with a lot of kids.

“I think we’re a little tired. Just like every swimmer in the Delaware Valley, I think they’re a little tired at this point, waiting for that anticipation of districts. You keep putting your head down, keep plugging away at this point, trust in your training, and then good things are gonna happen.”

La Salle’s Liam Smith in the 500 freestyle during the Explorers’ meet against Archbishop Wood on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

In addition to Gori’s contributions, Wood also got a victory from freshman Matthew Smith in the 100 breast. Wood knew what to expect from La Salle, a program that was 3A State Runner-Up last year and State Champs five years in a row before that.

“It’s La Salle,” Stillwell said smiling. “But we had decent swims — Pete swam well. The relays aren’t looking too bad. I think the free relays are good — I could stack the medley but I think the frees are gonna be better.”

Both squads will be in action again Friday: La Salle is at Upper Dublin for a non-league meet at 6 p.m., and the Viking boys and girls take on PCL rival Lansdale Catholic at the North Penn YMCA at 3:30 p.m.

“That’s gonna be real close — the boys could be a two-point meet,” Stillwell said. “They’re pretty good this year. They have a bunch of really good freshmen. It’s gonna be close. It’s gonna come down the wire. It should come down to the last relay.”

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