Berardi jumps in to give Garnet Valley the edge

CONCORD — As she stepped onto the pool deck at Garnet Valley Tuesday, Skyler Berardi’s plan was just to watch and cheer. In the push-and-pull she’s undertaken for the last four years, the Garnet Valley senior knew that this week, with the Delco Championships just 24 hours away, indoor track would take precedence over swimming.

But when she saw her Jaguars in a pitched battle with Ridley after the diving break and heard the offhand suggestion of coach Clark Bickling that, ‘˜hey, we’ve got an extra suit hanging around,’ well she couldn’t resist.

Berardi jumped in to anchor the Jaguars’ winning 200 freestyle relay, then led off the victorious 400 free relay to help GV to a 104-82 win.

The result was the reverse in the boys meet, with Ridley topping the hosts, 96-88.

Tuesday’s division of time has been par for the course for Berardi. The Colgate track signee enters Delcos Wednesday with the fastest mile time in the county this season. As a freshman and sophomore, waiting for the spring outdoor season was enough to satisfy her obligations on the track, allowing the winter to be devoted to swimming.

As the recruiting process ramped up, though, the value of the indoor track season and a winter’s worth of training became apparent to Berardi and her prospective college coaches. Now, most of her training during the swim season — including about a half hour of light practice earlier Tuesday afternoon prepping for Delcos — occurs out of the pool, and while there’s plenty of overlap in aerobic training, each has its particulars that allow someone like Berardi to perform at such high levels.

Then there’s the emotional connection to the swim team that Berardi hasn’t been able to maintain. While she enjoys being a track co-captain, it’s different — not better or worse — than the position of leadership she’s occupied in the pool.

“The hardest thing, I think, is how much I miss being on the swim team full time,’ she said. “I’m so close to so many of the people here. Obviously I still see them, but it’s just so different because swimming has always been such a big part of my life.’

Those emotions meant Tuesday, with her team nursing a two-point lead and looking for boost, she couldn’t help but volunteer.

“This is still so much my team,’ she said. “I feel a sense of ownership of it a little bit. I want to make sure that we do as well as we can, and if that means swimming in a few extra relays, that’s what I’ll do.’

It came at a perfect time, too. Sans Berardi, it wasn’t often that a Jaguar got her hand to the wall first. Prior to the relay triumph, only Jordan Stansfield in the 100 free and diver Morgan Kovatch had managed to win. The relay — where Berardi (dubbed by Stansfield as the team’s “secret weapon’) joined Stansfield, Jenna Buttermore and Lucy Townend — ballooned the lead to eight points at 74-66. When Buttermore captured the 100 breast, the Jags were able to hit the 94-point plateau and clinch the win before the concluding relay.

Stansfield’s win was particularly important, with the sophomore coming from behind to reel in Ridley’s Kiera Wadsworth after trailing for the first three-quarters of the race.

“I saw that it was a really close race, and I saw toward the third turn that it was really equal,’ Stansfield said. “I was getting tired, but I thought I had to push on. I know we needed the points in a really close meet, so I just had to push the last couple of yards.’

The final results show Ridley winning the lion’s share of events, including two apiece by Gab Rudy (200 individual medley, 100 fly) and Jordan Mea (200/500 free), plus Sam Schreiber in the 50 and Wadsworth in the 100 back. But it was Garnet Valley’s depth and ability of “B’ and “C’ swimmers to beat their counterparts that shifted the balance, a feat aided by Ridley missing three of its girls due to injury or illness.

The same motif played out in reverse in the boys meet. Ricky Van Vladricken’s diving title and wins by Donnie Taziole in the 200 free and 100 back were Ridley’s only individual wins on the day. But depth was again the story for the Green Raiders, exemplified by a one-two finish in the 200 free relay that increased their lead to an insurmountable 81-59.

Andrew Woerth did his usual double, dominating the 50 free and 100 fly, Alex Mitchell swept the 200 IM and 100 breast and Joe Sacht (100 free) and Shane Scudder (400 free) picked up a win apiece for a team swimming without Ivan Michalovic.

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