Girls swimming: Final relay win sends Amherst to 2nd consecutive Central/West title (PHOTOS)

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 02-13-2023 5:38 PM

SPRINGFIELD – Amherst could only chase a time.

The Hurricanes trailed Longmeadow by a point entering the final event of Sunday’s Central/West Girls Swimming & Diving championships, the 400-yard freestyle relay. Amherst, the No. 1 seed and defending champion, watched the Lancers touch the wall in 3 minutes, 47 seconds from the third heat. That was 15 seconds faster than their seed time and 10 seconds faster than Amherst’s No. 1 time.

“It reminded us that we really needed to go for it on this leg,” Amherst senior Deborah Wells said. “Even though it’s the last race, we’re gonna give it our all. They knew what was at stake, and we’re not going to get nervous about it.”

Amherst’s squad of Rowan Albertson, Wells, Finnley Chambers and Lucy Smith pulled away from the last heat and won in 3:42.47, securing a second consecutive team title. The Hurricanes finished with 220 points, while Longmeadow had 215 in the annual meet held at Springfield College.

“It’s really crazy with the swim team because we came from not being Western Mass. champs at all a few years ago and not even being in the top three, and then to be double, that’s pretty cool,” Smith said.

Amherst won both the 400 freestyle and 200 medley relays along with three individual events. The Hurricanes haven’t lost a medley relay race in more than two years, and the same four that captured the 400 started the meet off with a time of 1:50.38.

Chambers, just a freshman, turned around and won the 200 freestyle in 2:00.54 the next event. She also added a fourth place showing in the 500 freestyle (5:28.85).

“It was beautiful, it really was. I knew that if [Chambers] just ran her own race, that she's a fighter. She'd be right there at the end with all the upperclassmen,” Amherst coach Denise Leckenby said. “I wanted her to be relaxed and calm and happy as well, which I knew would unfold into something really great.”

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Wells placed first in the 100 backstroke after entering the event as the No. 2 seed. She edged Monson’s Isabella Zeppa with a time of 59.66 seconds, the only competitor under a minute.

“I knew that I was on one of the outside lanes, so it's kind of hard for me to see everybody,” Wells said. “The entire time I was just thinking of, how fast I can move my arms and how far I can get off the wall?”

Smith defended her title in the 50 free, going down and back in 24.52 seconds. That was 0.35 seconds ahead of second, and her teammate Albertson was third (25.04).

“It was definitely a little bit stressful just because it is such a toss up of who's going to win because of how short the races are,” Smith said. “But I kind of just knew I needed to do the best I could and sprint.”

Smith also finished second in the 100 freestyle (53.96). Easthampton’s Natalia Robak repeated as the champion in 53.47.

“It was all out as long as you can hold it,” Robak said. “I knew I had to back-half-it a little more because that’s when other people tend to get tired.”

She claimed another title in the 200 individual medley (2:08.64), nearly four seconds clear of the field.

“It’s rewarding knowing your hard work pays off. It makes swimming a lot more fun,” Robak said.

Northampton senior Sydney Abild also added two individual titles: the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke. She held off a packed butterfly field in 58.40.

“I really had to try for the fly. I kind of died on the second 50, but everyone else kind of did, too,” Abild said.

Abild cruised to more than a five-second win in the breaststroke (1:04.53) racing nothing but her own time.

“It’s not exactly what I was looking for, but it’s a good seed time for states,” she said. “Hopefully at states, I can go the time I want to.”

The Division 2 state championships are in the early session Feb. 18 at MIT. Amherst is the defending champion in that meet, as well.

“That’s the nice thing about ending on a note like this this year is they feel they’re not done,” Leckenby said. “We’ll have to be as focused at states as we were today.”

Northampton diver Ursula von Goeler placed second in her first sectional championship with 407.4 points. Bromfield’s Lily Tomoole took first with a 486.7.

“I’ve been diving here at Springfield College, so I went over all of my dives here already and practiced them,” von Goeler said. “I had it down.”

Belchertown’s Aubrey Harrington, Valerie Williams, Alannah Lavoie and Cheri Williams placed fourth in the 200 medley relay (2:00.53).

Holyoke’s 200 freestyle relay of Laura Brown, Trinity Roy, Grace Leverault and Eva Bartosz took 11th (1:52.57).

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>