PHILADELPHIA >> Frances Resweber didn’t sound like a District One champion Saturday afternoon.
She swam like one — at least in a different year that furnished a less ruthless field than on this day at La Salle University’s Kirk Natatorium — even if she didn’t think like one.
The Strath Haven senior and defending 500 freestyle champ was faster than last year by more than two seconds, but 4:58.81 was good only for third place thanks to the torturous depth of competition.
Had the race been five yards longer, Resweber would’ve caught Oxford’s Morgan Curl, who preserved .49 seconds of cushion. Watching Lower Merion freshman and Central League champ Anna Kalandadze swim away with the crown in 4:56.58 could’ve caused dismay.
In Resweber, it triggered relief. A back injury dented her early-season training, particularly detrimental for a distance swimmer, limiting her yardage and precluding her from flip turns for nearly two weeks.
It also took a toll mentally on Resweber, who doesn’t usually have confidence to burn on deck.
“I never really had the confidence that (Haven coach) Dina (Dormer) always says I should I have,” the Davidson signee said. “I have a hard time putting myself into the final heat of states, putting myself in the final heat of districts and thinking that I’m a top-three kind of swimmer. When I hurt my back … I kept saying, ‘this is going to set me back; I’m not going to be able to do what I did.’”
Even without a full taper, Resweber found the legs late. Her final 100 split of 59.38 was her fastest. She worked the last three hundreds, chugging back to pass swimmers that had gone out quicker.
Resweber has turned the injury into a positive. A lighter December regimen made the choice to rest for states easier. It also forced her to reinvent her turns and walls, which weren’t an area of strength.
Resweber said she donned “a brave face” for Dormer and her team Friday, when she sealed silver in the 200 free.
Saturday, she sounded a little surprised that the display of strength proved not to be a put-on. And with her final PIAA Championships looming, the self-assuredness seems permanently affixed.
“Now I can say that I definitely have more confidence going into states than I did,” she said. “I’m excited to see what I can do.”
Saturday’s 100 free engendered all manner of confusion. Claire Walsh’s took just a moment to dispel hers. But one haze persists.
First was Walsh, who for a second appeared to have won the event from the next-to-last heat. She trounced that heat with a time of 51.18 seconds, bettering the Delaware County record set by Episcopal Academy’s Emma Seiberlich (51.67) two weeks ago. The Penncrest freshman’s time appeared to hold up through the final heat, when the board showed Conestoga’s Madison Ledwith as the top time at 51.19.
But the touchpad failed to register for Pennridge’s Morgan Scott in lane 3, and the backup watch revealed a time of 50.73 for the top seed and defending champ.
Walsh, winner of Friday’s 50 free, lingered behind the blocks and knew something was amiss watching the finish, so there was no bubble for the rectification of the times to burst.
“I was watching the clock as all the girls were swimming, and when (Scott) touched, I knew there was something wrong,” Walsh said. “I was just happy because I dropped like half a second (off my personal-best), because I hadn’t dropped time like that in a while.”
The overarching question on the 100 free, a version of which has resounded all over the deck, pertains to how the meet got so fast. Radnor’s Julia Cullen and Strath Haven’s Summer Martin, who tied for fifth last year in 51.94, were each slightly slower this go-round. But their times — 52.43 and 10th place for Martin, 52.55 for 12th for Cullen — would’ve easily made states last year.
This year, with the logjam of bodies in front of them, it’s not guaranteed. The cut for the final states at-large berth last year was 53.07. Two years ago, it was even more leisurely at 53.61, a time well outside the top 16 Saturday.
The speed on display, Martin said, may have adversely affected her swim.
“I think today I got a little too much in my head about it,” Martin said. “I knew that my heat was going to be really fast with Claire and Hannah Zurmuhl (of Pennridge), and I knew the last heat was so fast. So I think it was kind of mental. … What you have to do is kind of ignore that because knowing that everyone else is faster isn’t necessarily going to be faster.”
Martin achieved a measure of revenge, anchoring Haven’s 400 free relay with a 51.34 split to help the Panthers to ninth in 3:35.06, in the thick of states contention.
Whereas the boys were largely bereft of states swims, a frighteningly quick girls meet produced a bevy of state threats for Delco.
Haverford’s Maddie Hart was denied a repeat in the 100 backstroke by Pennridge’s Brittany Weiss, whom she bested in the 100 butterfly Friday. Weiss went 54.78, just outtouching Hart in 54.92.
Hart returned with a vengeance in the 400 freestyle relay, uncorking a 50.76 anchor leg to help Haverford to ninth in 3:35.31. That would’ve just missed an at-large last year, though the 400 free cuts are volatile year to year.
Fourth was Springfield’s Georgia Apostolu, who set a personal-best in taking fourth in 56.66.
“I’m just glad the hard work is paying off, and I can’t wait to keep it going,” the junior said.
Also in the states conversation is Penncrest’s Julia Colizzo, who finished ninth in 58.20. That time would’ve made states last year by a half second.
Ridley’s Gab Rudy rode a strong second half of the 100 breaststroke to eight in 1:05.45. That’s 1.3 seconds faster than the last at-large time a season ago.