HAVERFORD — For Emma Seiberlich, the correlation didn't need to be drawn in concrete terms.

The Episcopal Academy freshman knew the benefits of the arduous schedule she'd set forth. Somewhere along the 4:45 a.m. rides from her home in Audubon to the Phoenixville YMCA for practice, then the trek to Episcopal Academy before an afternoon's work in the pool, the importance of each facet of her schedule became obvious.

She might not have had time to consider each aspect of the chlorine-soaked triangle, but considering the accomplishments of her peers at both illustrious swim programs, the truth was undeniable.

Among the many things Seiberlich and Haverford School's Dan McGrath have in common is this interplay of swimming, split between a high school program for four intense months of the year and a YMCA program for the others.

"They're definitely different programs, the way we practice, the way we do things and the way we interact with the team," said McGrath, who swims for Ridley YMCA. "It's completely different, and there are pros and cons to both. But I think having the balance of both of them definitely helps."

That shared swimming background between Seiberlich and McGrath — and for that matter, most of their All-Delco peers — is a big reason why they are the 2013-14 Daily Times Swimmers of the Year.


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Seiberlich is joined on the girls team by EA teammates McKenzie Street and Emily Rhodes, Strath Haven's Frances Resweber, Haverford's Maddie Hart, Ridley's Gab Rudy and Agnes Irwin diver Marin Bloise.

Alongside McGrath is teammate Matt Haigh, Haverford High's Connor Hart, the Radnor duo of Ryan Freedman and Mitch Gartland, and Episcopal Academy's Ben Baturka and Josh Owsiany.  

All four classes are represented on the girls team, the lone senior the four-time All-Delco Rhodes. Street, a three-time selection, and Bloise, making her second appearance, are juniors. Resweber and Hart, making her second appearance in as many years, are sophomores, while Rudy and Seiberlich are freshmen.

For the boys, Owsiany is making his third All-Delco appearance, while McGrath, Hart and Baturka repeat from last year's team. Of the selections, Owsiany (a junior) and Baturka and Haigh (sophomores) are underclassmen.

The All-Delco teams are selected in consultation with local area coaches. 

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Haverford School’s Dan McGrath has been a cornerstone of the Fords’ rebuilding effort throughout his scholastic career, and the effor has paid
Haverford School's Dan McGrath has been a cornerstone of the Fords' rebuilding effort throughout his scholastic career, and the effor has paid off this year with a team fifth-place finish at Easterns. (Eric Hartline)

Among the common threads on the All-Delco team is YMCA experience. Street, Resweber, Rudy and Haigh compete for Ridley Y alongside McGrath, while Freedman swims for Upper Main Line Y.

For Seiberlich and McGrath, the relationship between the two schools of swimming thought is obvious. Through the Y programs, they have spent years building strength and stamina for the rigors of Y meets, which include more daunting events like 200-yard strokes, 1,000 and 1,650 frees and the 400 IM over short- and long-course pools.

The high school program is less daunting, limiting stroke proficiency to 100 yards and freestyle distance to 500. The onus is on coaches to distill that raw ability to extract the speed and precision needed to compete at the high school level.

Episcopal Academy’s Emma Seiberlich posted the fastest times in the county in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle in this year’s Eastern
Episcopal Academy's Emma Seiberlich posted the fastest times in the county in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle in this year's Eastern Interscholastic Swimming Championships at La Salle University. (Eric Hartline)

Few do that better than Brian Kline at Episcopal Academy and Sean Hansen at Haverford School. With their workout time comparatively limited and dual meets interrupting practice schedules, the mandate is to do more with less — less yardage, less reps, less time. It's the same directive, essentially, given to swimmers narrowing their areas of expertise.

"At EA, we train a little bit differently because everything is technique-based," said Seiberlich, who works out two mornings a week plus weekends with her Y team. "(Assistant coach) Quincy (Hyson) and Brian will always be looking at our technique. We do hard sets, but they aren't as much yardage. They're harder in terms of, we're going to do shorter but on harder time bases, rather than longer distances. ... We're focusing more in school on the tinier things, more technique, where at Phoenixville, we're doing a lot more of the aerobic, power, that kind of thing."

Hansen tailors a unique strength-building program, complementing a focus on mechanics. For McGrath, the aerobic base is instilled over hours of lap-swimming. From that block of marble, Hansen performs the finer cuts, toning muscles through dryland exercises and focusing on intensity — quality instead of quantity. Exercises like the team's power towers, which counterbalance swimmers and essentially hold them in place going through their stroke patterns to iron out inefficiencies, are a perfect example.

"Sean has these VO2 (high intensity) stroke sets where in a practice I'll pretty much do anywhere 3,000 to 3,500 (meters) straight breaststroke," McGrath said. "It's broke up 25, 50, 75s, different every time. But the one part of it is that it's all fast, and it has to be consistently fast. I think those are what really got me to be a better breaststroker."

There's little to argue with the results. Seiberlich, who made a major impact as an eighth grader, repeated this year as the 100 backstroke champ at the Eastern Interscholastic Championships, swimming identical times of 55.6 seconds in prelims and finals and coming within .24 seconds of Emily Baturka's county record.

Seiberlich claimed fourth in the 100 fly, trailing Rhodes (first in a county record) and Street (third). The freshman provided the fastest leadoff leg in the A final of the 200 medley relay, leading the team of Street, Rhdoes and Sarah Baturka to a title.

Seiberlich posted the fastest times in the county in the 100 back and 100 free. She also finished in the top five in the 100 fly, 200 free and 50 free.

Her versatility is a recurring theme in an EA program in which narrowing each swimmer's specialty to two postseason events is arduous. It makes for competitive and productive practice sessions.

"It's good because we're always pushed," Seiberlich said. "It wouldn't be nearly the same if there was only two or three fast swimmers. With our group, all of us can swim really fast. At practice, we all just push each other, and it really works."

McGrath, who will swim next year at Lehigh University, has bridged the gap of eras at Haverford School. As a freshman, the Glenolden native helped the Fords finish seventh at Easterns; in the three years since, they have earned their only three top-six finishes in program history.

Haverford School has produced the last two swimmers of the year, McGrath following in Jimmy Jameson's footsteps. Each of the last three All-Delco teams have featured at least two Fords.

This season, McGrath spearheaded a rebuilding Fords team finishing fifth at Easterns. McGrath took fifth in the 50 free and 10th in the 100 breast. He was part of the third-place medley relay and sixth-place 400 free relay squad. His best times in the 50 (21.46) and 100 frees (46.95) topped the county by decisive margins, while his 100 breast time of 58.19 was second-best.

McGrath, who trains exclusively with Haverford School during the high school season, attributes much of the success, individual and collective, to the atmosphere fostered by Hansen and his staff.

"He makes it a place that you want to come and work hard," McGrath said. "There's not a single kid who's here when we're training that doesn't push me, even if they're not a good swimmer or if they're a better practice swimmer than I am. They find a way to push you, and we really do a good job of motivating each other."

That motivation has helped the program soar to new heights, and McGrath has enjoyed the ride immensely.

"I guess I was used to it because I came in during a year where we had a lot of potential, and we did well," he said. "We didn't do maybe as well as we wanted to, but I think the fact that I came here when we were just beginning to get here, the wave hit and I just rode it through."

Daily Times Swimming Super 7

Boys

1. Haverford School (5-1)

2. Radnor (10-1)

3. Haverford (10-3)

4. Strath Haven (8-3-1)

5. Ridley (11-4) 7-4

6. Penncrest (6-4-1)

7. Episcopal Academy (4-3)

Girls

1. Episcopal Academy (7-1)

2. Haverford (12-1) 

3. Strath Haven (10-2)

4. Radnor (8-3)

5. Ridley (11-4)

6. Penncrest (5-6)

7. Garnet Valley (5-7-1)