MALVERN -- With the counterclockwise flow around the polar vortex shoving cold air southward from the Arctic, the temperature Wednesday afternoon outside Malvern Prep's O'Neill Sports Center was pushed into the mid-teens.
It was a totally different story inside the building at the Friars' natatorium.
Conestoga's swim teams were visiting for a pair of non-league meets -- the boys against Malvern Prep and the girls against Villa Maria Academy. The stands were filled with very vocal parents and fans and the teams were waging war in almost every event. It was a heated affair featuring four very good teams.
Conestoga's girls, who are closing in on their 15th straight Central League title, and 'Stoga's boys, who are perennial powerhouses in the Central League, are both very much in the title chase for this year's District One Class AAA championships.
Malvern Prep, which won the Inter-Ac title and finished second at Easterns last year, already has claimed the 2014 Inter-Ac crown and is poised to make another big splash at this year's Easterns. Villa Maria is riding a streak of three straight Class AA state championships, 11 consecutive District One Class AA titles and 12 straight AACA championships.
In other words, four of the premier teams in Chester County were in the water Wednesday -- and they all delivered. Conestoga's swimmers fared well but the Pioneers still came up short in both meets. Malvern Prep posted a 102-78 win and Villa Maria returned home with a 102-83 victory.
Setting the pace for the Friars were quadruple-winner CJ Schaffer and triple-winners Billy Beard and Aaron Salinas. The trio teamed with Zach Maher to take first in the 200-yard freestyle relay while Salinas, Schaffer and Beard hooked up with Chris Cary to win the 200 medley relay.
Individually, Schaffer touched first in the 200 IM at 1:54.77 and the 100 backstroke with a time of 52.10. Beard swept the sprints with a clocking of 21.76 in the 50 freestyle and 47.12 in the 100 freestyle. Salinas placed first in the 100 breaststroke at 1:00.69 and also was runner-up to Beard in the 50 free with a time of 21.96.
"I was looking at the IM record a little bit but I missed it by one second,' said Schaffer. "I was still happy with the time. That race hurt. In back, I didn't want to take it out too fast. But then, I had morel left at the end than I wanted.'
Beard said, "The 100 free was my best race today. It was close to my season best. I was happy with that time. The 50 free was good. But, I still need to work on my starts and turns.'
The Friars' only other individual winner was Zack Whitlock. The senior, who was competing for the last time, posted a winning score of 273.75.
"I'm not going to dive at Inter-Acs or Easterns because I have a punctured eardrum,' said Whitlock. "Even diving today was a risk. I used a foam earplug and dove with a cap but, after the third dive, it started to hurt a lot. All my dives felt good. My inward one-and-one-half was probably the best I've ever done. I saved it for a good time.'
Conestoga had a trio of double-winners -- Michael Ashmead, Raju Kolluru and Alex Schon. All of them were teammates on the victorious 400 freestyle relay along with Brian McKenrick. Individually, Ashmead took first in the 200 freestyle at 1:47.06, Kolluru won the 100 butterfly with a clocking of 53.81 and Schon touched first in the 500 freestyle at 4:57.55.
"My 500 free time was just an all right time,' said Schon. "Going into it, I just wanted to go strong the entire time and keep my stroke long. The time was O.K. for this part of the season.'
Conestoga also had the first-place finisher in the girls' 500 freestyle. Amber Zimmerman took first in the 500 free at 5:16.85 and also took first in the 200 free with a time of 1:58.67.
"Both races were O.K. but not close to my season bests,' said Zimmerman. "In the 200 free, I shut it down in the last 100 because I still had other races coming up. In the 500, I just wanted to keep a comfortable pace.'
The Pioneers had one other double-winner -- Abby Mack, who logged a win in the 50 freestyle at 24.80 and came back later to win the 100 butterfly with a time of 57.83.
"The 50 free wasn't my best time but it was a really good time for in-season,' said Mack. "I definitely got off the blocks really fast and I hit the wall really well. I think my underwater is my best part. I've been working on it a lot.'
Villa Maria's lone four-event winner was Emily Cornell. She took first in the 200 IM with a time of 2:12.36 and topped the field in the 100 backstroke with a clocking of 58.80.
"The IM felt really good,' said Cornell. "I tried to take it out a little faster in the first 100. It was my best time all year and my best dual meet time ever. I felt strong at the end -- better than usual. Back felt good too even though I'm pretty tired. My legs gave out but I tried to keep the tempo up with my arms.'
Cornell was also on the winning 200 medley relay with Olivia Tierney, Olivia Giampietro and Julie Dobson and the first-place 400 free relay with Maura McManus, Dobson and Giampietro.
Dobson was a major point contributor with a third-place finish in the 100 butterfly and as part of all three winning relays. She teamed with Ashlyn Chermol, Giampietro and McManus on the first-place 200 freestyle relay.
McManus and Tierney were the Hurricanes' other individual event winners. McManus posted her win in the 100 freestyle with a time of 54.77, while Tierney touched first in the 100 breaststroke at 1:10.62.
"The 100 free wasn't my best but I was happy with it,' said McManus, who was also third in the 50 freestyle. "My personal best is 53.64 with my club team. Today's time was my best for a high school meet. I saw how close it was at the last wall so I was really pushing the last 25. I was happy with the win and happy with the time.'
Tierney, who was also third in the 200 IM at 2:14.79, said, "My goal today was just to beat Conestoga. It was a team goal. I got the win in breast and was pleased with the time. The IM was really good -- my best dual meet time. Fly felt pretty good today.'
Villa Maria 103
Conestoga 83 (GIRLS)
200-yard medley relay -- Villa Maria (Cornell, Tierney, Dobson, Giampietro) 1:50.25; 200 freestyle — Zimmerman (C) 1:58.67; 200 IM — Cornell (V) 2:12.36; 50 freestyle — Macl (C) 24.80; diving — Bernick (C) 171.00 ; 100 butterfly — Mack (C) 57.83; 100 freestyle — McManus (V) 54.77; 500 freestyle -- Zimmerman (C) 5:16.85; 200 freestyle relay -- Villa Maria (McManus, Chermol, Dobson, Giampietro) 1:40.86; 100 backstroke — Cornells (V) 58.80; 100 breaststroke — Tierney (V) 1:10.62; 400 freestyle relay -- Villa Maria (McManus, Dobson, Giampietro, Cornell) 3:38.26.
Malvern Prep 102
Conestoga 78 (BOYS)
200-yard medley relay -- Malvern Prep (Schaffer, Salinas, Cary, Maher) 1:37.19; 200 freestyle — Ashmead (C) 1:47.06; 200 IM — Schaffert (M) 1:54.77; 50 freestyle — Beard (M) 21.76; diving — Whitlock (M) 243.75; 100 butterfly — Kolluru (C) 53.81; 100 freestyle — Beard (M) 47.12; 500 freestyle -- Schon (C) 4:57.55; 200 freestyle relay -- Malvern Prep (Salinas, Cary, Maher, Beard) 1:31.14; 100 backstroke — Schaffer (M) 52.10; 100 breaststroke — Salinas (M) 1:00.09; 400 freestyle relay -- Conestoga (Kolluru, Ashmead, McKenrick, Schon) 3:19.14.