PHILADELPHIA — The number of female swimmers who would be disappointed with a 55.60 seconds in the 100 backstroke is small. Scarcer still are disappointed 55-second backstrokers with three years of high school left.
Nonetheless, Emma Seiberlich was slightly downbeat about her winning swim at the Eastern Interscholastic Championships at La Salle's Kirk Natatorium.
"It felt great," she said with a slight sigh. "I was going for Emily Baturka's record, but I still have three more years I guess."
Seiberlich coasted in prelims, winning in the same time as finals, 55.60, a spread of over two ticks to the nearest challenger. The final wasn't quite as lopsided, the freshman only separating herself from the field by 1.17 seconds, but she was short of her goal, the three-time Daily Times swimmer of the year Baturka's school and Delco record of 55.36.
Setting that record would've been particularly special with Baturka, now swimming at Penn, in attendance, and Seiberlich's connections to the family.
"I've known Emily for a couple of years now, and I'm really good friends with (younger siblings) Sarah and Ben,' Seiberlich said. "It's kind of cool to know who has the record, and it would be kind of cool to have my name on the record board this year."
Seiberlich was one of several EA swimmers unable to improve on their prelim times. McKenzie Street dropped a place in finals to sixth in the 100 breaststroke, and Sarah Baturka went from the fourth seed to sixth in the 100 freestyle.
Others stepped up though, as Emily Rhodes (B final of the 100 back) and Maddie O'Reilly (C final of the 500) held serve with confident, heat-winning swims. Bernadette Tankle held strong to finish fifth in the 500, and the 400 free relay team of Seiberlich, Tankle, Street and Baturka swam to third place.
Perhaps the most unexpected swim came via Rachel Farmer. She entered the 100 free seeded 27th. She snuck into the C final in 17th, then attacked her evening swim to jump to 14th, scoring major bonus points.
"It's a bigger meet, so I'm more nervous here than at regular meets," Farmer said. "I have more adrenaline flowing and I just tried to beat the other fast swimmers here. ... It's not so much the pressure, it's just the nerves that keep you going."
EA finished third overall with 380 points. And in case you were wondering about Sieberlich's appraisal of EA's team standing...
"It's a place down from last year," she said.
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Matt Haigh knew why his prelim swim didn't go to plan. And he knew how to fix it in finals.
"I don't want to make excuses, but I don't really swim well when I'm nervous," the Haverford School sophomore said. "During finals, (coach) Sean (Hansen) talked to me and he said, 'just have fun with it." And that's exactly what I did."
That fun translated to a time of 4:35.53, a lifetime best, second-fastest in Delco history and enough to earn him third place.
A lot went into Haigh's race strategy, including simply putting his head down and beating two kids to the wall. But it also was about calmly swimming his race, which he executed perfectly.
Haigh's point total was a big factor in the Fords' fifth-place finish. Despite being shutout of the 100 free, they got major points in the 100 back with eighth-grader Alex Boratto going fourth and Charlie and Luke Ryan taking eighth and 10th, respectively. Dan McGrath was 10th in a wickedly fast 100 breast in 58.67, and the 400 free relay team of McGrath, Haigh, Ben Nelligan and Charlie Ryan took sixth.
It's the Fords' third straight top-six finish at Easterns.
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Ivan Puskovitch isn't exactly an unknown. Being a 9-10-year-old national age-group record holder doesn't afford much anonymity.
But what the EA seventh-grader did Saturday still stunned many.
Puskovitch turned in a lifetime best of 4:52.69 in prelims, earning the 18th and final spot in finals in his first ever 500 swim at a trials-and-finals meet.
"I was very excited and surprised by that," Puskovitch said. "I wasn't expecting it at all. I was just looking forward to swimming at this meet for the first time."
As if the accomplishment needed embellishment, his time broke a Mid Atlantic 11-12 age-group record owned by Germantown Academy's Fran Crippen, who long held the Easterns meet record.
That fact wasn't lost on Puskovitch.
"It made me feel really good, especially taking down Fran's record," he said. "Seeing that he had the meet record here, it makes me feel that I'm on my way to maybe getting that record someday."