Seiberlich, mates write new chapter in Episcopal history

LANCASTER >> Emma Seiberlich barely got back to her teammates’ arms before the tears started flowing.

For two days, the Episcopal Academy senior’s every thought aimed at winning the Eastern Interscholastic Championships. For five years, she and generations of talent have ascended step-by-step, never quite reaching the hallowed summit.

When Seiberlich’s culminating 400 freestyle relay squad finished in the safe harbor of second place, securing the long sought first Easterns title in school history, the joyful tears flooded out of the University of Virginia commit at Franklin & Marshall’s Kunkel Aquatic Center.

From left, Notre Dame’s Michaela McGeary, and Episcopal’s Emma Seiberlich and Maddie O’Reilly pose with their medals at the Eastern Interscholastic Championships at Franklin & Marshall Saturday. Seiberlich won, McGeary was third and O’Reilly eighth.

“Seeing last year us getting so close and losing by eight points, that has been in my mind for the past year,” she said. “And we were always kind of a little bit behind GA until last year, and finally my senior year, getting to win by such a close margin, it’s been in the back of my head for so many months now.”

By the time their raucous crowd dispersed, Seiberlich was wearing the championship cup on the front of her head, an ample and tangible replacement for the winner of the 100 freestyle, doubling up on a 100 butterfly win Friday. Those victories buoyed EA’s point total to 542.5, surpassing Mercersburg Academy’s 527 for the crown.

Seiberlich and Alex Sumner – voted the outstanding girls swimmer of the meet for capturing the 200 individual medley Friday and 100 backstroke Saturday, the latter in a meet record – were heavy favorites going in their races. But the X factor was Hadley DeBruyn in the 500 free. And her stirring come-from-behind performance was the moment that made you believe something special was in the air.

DeBruyn was four seconds slower than top-seeded Karlee Carminati of Germantown Academy in prelims. When the GA senior roared ahead by a body-length midway through the evening final, the race appeared done and dusted.

But the freshman summoned the will to catch Carminati and roar past her, a show of defiance that stopped the clock in 4:50.81 (downing Brenda Borgh’s county record from 1977) and sending the EA delegation into paroxysms of joy.

“When you’re that far behind, you just have to go for it at the end,” DeBruyn said. “I just gave it my all and I knew my team was behind me, no matter if I win or if I got second.”

So spent was DeBruyn at race’s end that she had to be peeled off the wall by teammates. But a moment of heavy lifting was a small price for her mates to pay for the emotional boost.

“Just to show that she has the power to come back from that big of a deficit, it shows what our team is about,” senior sprinter Maddie O’Reilly said. “We were losing to Mercersburg, let’s make that her 500, now we’re going to come back to win. That kind of set the tone.”

“I think that was the underdog swim of the meet,” Seiberlich said. “Even before going into it, we knew Hadley had so much potential in the race.”

The epic journey from trailing early featured many other protagonists, even if DeBruyn was its most vibrant. Wren Sablich and Maia Golub finished second and fifth in diving, held out of sight back at GA. Bridget Egan crept up from 16th to 13th in the 500, while Sally Stockett went from eight to sixth in the 100 breaststroke.

That left the team of Seiberlich, Sumner, O’Reilly and DeBruyn just needing to avoid a DQ in the concluding relay. The silver-medal time of 3:28.26 was enough to set off the celebrations.

“This team is making history,” Seiberlich said, before repeating just to verify the truth. “It’s our first time ever winning Easterns. I can’t even put it into words.”

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