East Penn Press

Tuesday, December 18, 2018
PRESS FILE PHOTO Chelsea Gravereaux and the Emmaus girls team will be among the top teams in the league and district this season. PRESS FILE PHOTO Chelsea Gravereaux and the Emmaus girls team will be among the top teams in the league and district this season.

Girls team adds depth

Friday, November 30, 2018 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

There was a time when people speaking about high school swimming in the Lehigh Valley spoke mainly about Emmaus and Parkland. Those days are changing, as the Liberty girls finished last season 13-1 overall and were perfect in the EPC. Girls teams from Easton and Nazareth both won eight EPC meets. The Emmaus girls finished second to Parkland in districts last season, but continue to close the gap between the two rivals.

The rise of other teams has caused Emmaus to have to pick up its game just a little. With a revamping of the EMAC feeder system for swimming, the Hornets come into the season with their largest roster in memory, featuring 45 swimmers and nine divers.

“We’re seeing more and more young swimmers ready to compete and push the upperclassmen as freshmen and sophomores,” said head coach Tim O’Connor. “Much of that is due to what’s happening with EMAC and how we’re focusing everything we do on preparing swimmers for the next level.”

EMAC and the high school team have always had a link, but it’s stronger and more coordinated now than ever. The two entities combine under the banner of The Green Swarm and aim to make Emmaus even more competitive in swimming than its been in the past. The girls team finished at 10-1 in the EPC and 11-2 overall, finishing second in districts behind Parkland. The girls closing the gap on Parkland has been one of the storylines of the past few seasons.

“I think that’s the elephant in the room,” said O’Connor. “We don’t talk about it, but it’s there. The problem has always been our depth. I can always put our top swimmers up against anybody, but when you get deeper and need more swimmers, that’s where we’ve come up short.”

That may be changing and senior Chelsea Gravereaux would love to see it change completely in her senior season, but she is playing it cool coming into the season.

“We’ll see,” said Gravereaux with a coy smile. “We’ll let our swimming speak for itself.”

In addition to Gravereaux, the girls team has a strong core group of senior swimmers, including Katie and Maggie Champagne, Abby Heilenman, Reilly King, Patti Kuzdzal, Caroline Nelson and Jordyn Yerger. There are just three junior swimmers on this year’s roster, leaving room for freshmen and sophomores to compete.

“Chelsea and Katie were two of the young swimmers who started to have success early on and now they’re seniors, so while they’ve been team leaders based on their performances, they’re really taking on that role this season,” said O’Connor. “They’ve really stressed to the younger swimmers how to do things the right way and what’s expected of them at this level and we haven’t always had that on the girls side.”

In diving, Emmaus lost senior Jess Hurlburt, who is now at Bucknell. While that’s going to hurt, the good news is that Emmaus has two freshmen – Morgan Belisle and Audrey Davidson – and a sophomore, Abby Barnes, set to compete on the boards this season.

“The girls are kind of lucky because they should all be able to get a lot of time on the boards this season and it’s only going to make them better to get that experience,” said O’Connor. “And, if all three of them make districts, it’s going to give our girls team a boost because in the past, it was basically just Jess that we were able to run out there.”

“I’m really excited for this season, but at the same time, I don’t want to wish it away, because it’s our last season,” said Gravereaux, who recently committed to Drexel University. “I’ve learned that anyone can be a leader, not just the upperclassmen. It can be freshmen and sophomores who lead by example and that’s great. The seniors always encouraged me when I was one of the younger swimmers and I want to do that for the younger swimmers on this team.”