Girls stop Parkland’s dominance
As it turns out, this was the year. Throughout the swimming season, members of the girls swimming and diving team from Emmaus were slow to make predictions about breaking the 10-year grip that the Parkland held on the District 11 championship.
When asked about the possibilities of knocking off Parkland, the Hornets would generally offer a wry smile with a response along the lines of “we’ll see.” On Saturday, those wry smiles turned to huge, joyous ones and the Emmaus girls swimmers talked about having won their first District 11 team championship since 2008.
Emmaus came into the swimming portion of this year’s districts in a hole after Parkland divers took the top three spots a week earlier. Emmaus’ highest finisher was freshman Morgan Belisle, who finished 11th. In addition to trailing Parkland, who not only took the top three spots, but had four divers in the top 10, the Hornets also trailed Easton, who had three divers in the top 10 and Freedom who had two divers among the top 10.
When the first horn blew to start the Class 3A swimming portion of districts last Friday night, Emmaus responded quickly.
An all-senior foursome of Katie Champagne, Abby Heilenman, Chelsea Gravereaux and Maggie Champagne won the 200-yard medley in a district record time of 1:45.02, breaking a record that stood since another Emmaus relay team set the mark in 2009.
Hornet senior Reilly King and her freshman sister Avery King placed second and third in the 200-yard freestyle and Katie Champagne returned to take silver in the 200 individual medley.
Slowly, Emmaus was closing in on Parkland in the team standings and drew closer when Abby Heilenman took silver in the 50 freestyle.
As the swimmers readied for the 100-yard butterfly, Gravereaux and freshman teammate Mya Puentes completed the task they had talked about all week leading up to the event when they finished one-two, with Gravereaux picking up yet another gold medal. It was that event where Emmaus moved ahead of Parkland and stayed there for the rest of the weekend.
“That was just amazing,” said Gravereaux. “I’m so proud of Mya and how hard she trained for this and that we could finish first and second. It was an amazing race and it just felt great to win this one.”
Emmaus capped off day one with another relay win when Katie and Maggie Champagne teamed with Heilenman and sophomore Peyton Rautzhan to take gold in the 200 freestyle relay.
Gravereaux went for her 12th career gold medal in the 100-yard freestyle, but had to settle for second when Nazareth’s Raquelle Roesch edged her out by .38 seconds. Parkland bounced back with gold and silver in the 500-yard freestyle, but Reilly King took third and Avery King grabbed fifth in that event to keep Emmaus comfortably first in team standings. Katie Champagne then grabbed another silver medal in the 100-yard backstroke, dropping nearly a full second off of her qualifying time.
“I feel great and I’m happy about dropping time,” said Champagne. “I’m so happy for us as a team. My teammates have all worked hard and they’re doing amazing. We’re all super-excited.”
If Emmaus hadn’t locked up the championship by then, the Hornets certainly put it away in the 100-yard breaststroke when freshman Lauren Sharp grabbed first and fellow freshman Chloe Vlaeminck took third.
“This was just a dream come true,” said Sharp. “Ever since eighth grade I saw my brother [senior Jack Sharp] in districts and I wanted to be in that position where I saw him go to districts and win. It’s also amazing to win the team title and think about what we can do in the future individually and as a team.”
Finally, the King sisters teamed with Rautzhan and Gravereaux to take silver in the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay.
When Emmaus won districts in 2008, it broke another long win streak by Parkland that stood at eight straight district titles. The members of next year’s team are going to be tasked with making it two in a row and with the development of young swimmers this season, they’ve got the opportunity to start a streak of their own.
Next year, Emmaus swimmers won’t be asked about breaking any streak. They’ll be asked about starting their own streak and their answers will come from something more than just modesty about being good. They’ll finally be able to speak as champions.