That winning feeling returns as Haverford’s Hart downs record

PHILADELPHIA >> Five times in her storied high school career, Haverford’s Maddie Hart has risen to the top step of the District One podium at La Salle University’s Kirk Natatorium.

Friday’s ascent held the same wonderment for the senior.

Hart claimed her fourth career individual District One Class AAA title by besting the field in the 100 butterfly, setting a district and Delaware County record in 54.03 seconds.

The time undercuts the mark set by West Chester East’s Christina Leander in 2013, Hart’s freshman year, one of the few instances in which she was denied gold. Hart’s time is quicker than the 54.14 she turned in last year at states, the previous Delco mark.

With all those plaques and trophies, you might think the luster has faded. Not so for the jovial Hart.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it,” the reigning Daily Times female swimmer of the year and last year’s District One Class AAA most outstanding swimmer said. “… After finishing the 100 fly, I looked up at the scoreboard and, I don’t know, it puts a smile on your face. I just remember all four years, and that always happened. You just look up at the scoreboard and you’re like, ‘I like that.’ It’s a great feeling.”

The swim could’ve been faster had Hart not gotten caught between strokes at the wall, gliding home a fraction before the onrushing Brittany Weiss of Pennridge to claim her third straight fly title. Weiss, a frequent foil for Hart down the years, took home second in 54.22, also under Leander’s mark.

Hart’s time nearly fulfilled one of the main goals driving her this year.

“I like setting really high goals, goals that scare you,” she said. “I remember in the beginning of the year when I sat down with (coach) Matt (Stewart), I said, ‘I want to go 53 by the end of the year.’ That was like, I don’t know if that’s going to happen. That’s a scary thing to say.”

Radnor’s Julia Cullen finished fourth in 55.84, among the five automatic berths to the PIAA Championships.

As it nears its end, Hart’s dominant district career has been something to behold. She had one of the fastest splits at 23.79 in the 50 fly in the Fords’ 200 medley relay, which placed ninth in 1:49.04 and has an outside chance of at states. (Radnor’s medley relay took fifth in 1:48.40 to get to states.) Saturday, she faces the challenge of repeating as the 100 backstroke champion, an event where she’s seeded fourth, a second behind top-seeded Weiss.


When Claire Walsh touched the wall and looked up at the board, she seemed unsure how to react.

To say the Penncrest freshman was surprised would’ve implied self-doubt, of which the 6-foot-2 sprinter possesses little.

Not until she exited the pool, double-checked the times and walked off did the emotions rush out.

“I was so ecstatic,” said Walsh, who won the 50 freestyle in 23.59 seconds, a Delco record. “I was so happy. I’m so happy that all my teammates were here today, and I was so excited.”

Walsh has prided herself on dropping time at every juncture, and so she did Friday. Her time downs three-time Daily Times swimmer of the year Emily Baturka’s county record (23.69) and is within a tenth of Walsh’s personal-best.

The rangy rookie started the day by anchoring Penncrest’s medley relay, which finished 14th, with a split of 23.39. She gleaned from that effort that a quick day could be in the offing.

In the final heat of the 50, Walsh, in lane 2, pushed late, getting her hand to the wall .04 seconds quicker than Pennridge’s Hannah Zurmuhl, the defending champ and district-record holder. The Pennridge senior, who led off the Rams’ record setting 200 free relay minutes later, registered a 23.30 last year.

With all the factors in play in the splash and dash, Walsh struck the post-race balance in emotions: Not surprised or satisfied, just jubilant with her performance.

“I think since states is a place-qualification meet, it puts you in a kind of mindset that you get a little more competitive,” Walsh said. “So I feel like I went into this meet, I was definitely calm and focused but I did have a competitive edge and I was ready to race my heart out.”


Ridley's Gab Rudy dives in for the 200 individual medley at the District One Class AAA Championships Friday. Rudy finished eighth in 2:06.55. (For Digital First Media/Barry Taglieber)
Ridley’s Gab Rudy dives in for the 200 individual medley at the District One Class AAA Championships Friday. Rudy finished eighth in 2:06.55. (For Digital First Media/Barry Taglieber)

So three swimmers walk out of a pool, and one of them says…

“We talk about where we’re going to eat afterward,” Ridley’s Gab Rudy said.

An obvious choice, maybe, but that was the topic of conversation for Rudy, teammate Keira Wadsworth and Springfield’s Georgia Apostolu after their shared heat of the 200 individual medley.

It was a quick one, Rudy finishing second in the heat with Apostolu a spot back. For the event, Rudy’s time of 2:06.55 landed eighth. Apostolu (2:06.68) was ninth, while Wadsworth claimed 16th in 2:10.79, a spot behind Strath Haven’s Camille Jablonski.

For context, Jablonski finished ninth last year in the event … with a time that was a second slower than the 2:09.29 posted Friday. Last year, 2:09.07 earned the 16th at-large berth to states. District One usually sends six to 10 individuals to states, and if Apostolu’s time is an indication, that standard will be drastically quicker.

Beyond the conversational opportunities and the saved texts on meal planning, there was a real benefit to that Ridley-laden heat. All three swim for Ridley Rays, offering a morale booster on a pressure-packed day.

More strategically, Apostolu is a strong front-half swimmer (her other event is backstroke). Rudy is a breaststroke specialist. Having Apostolu as a mid-race speed gauge benefits Rudy in plotting her back-half assault.

“It does help,” Rudy said. “I’m not a very strong backstroker. So to see her next to me and see how fast she can go, I try to pace myself and stay with her. So it does help.”


Notes >> With her indefatigable style, Frances Resweber surged in the second half of the 200 freestyle, taking second place in 1:51.68 from an outside lane. Teammate Summer Martin jumped to fifth in 1:52.50. Those two joined Jablonski and Chloe Brennan to take 10th in the 200 free relay in 1:38.83. That time is faster than the final at-large states cut the last two years. … On the subject of depth, enter the 200 free. Radnor’s Sasha Smolyansky went 1:55.85 from an early heat. The last two years, the time was on the cusp of states qualification. Friday, it landed her 16th. … In the Class AA meet, Delco Christian’s Alex McKeaney almost pulled the shock of the night. The sophomore won the next-to-last heat of the 50 freestyle in 24.53 seconds, then watched that time come within .14 ticks of holding up for gold. Hannah Blaser of Gwynedd-Mercy nipped McKeaney with a time of 24.39, McKeaney tying for third.

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