NEWARK — Heading into the final event of the night, the 400-yard freestyle relay, the DIAA girls state swimming and diving championship hung in the balance. Whichever of the top four teams in the standings took that race would be crowned state champions, and each had a compelling story.
Ursuline sat in first place after the penultimate event, the 100 breaststroke, thanks to strong finishes in that and the previous race, the 100 backstroke. The Raiders were looking to reclaim the crown they had worn in 2016 and ’17. Newark Charter was trying for the hat trick, having won the last two titles. Padua had not hung a banner for swimming since 1993. And Tower Hill was in search of its first championship in the sport in school history.
The Pandas held an early lead, but when the bubbles settled, Tower Hill wrapped up a record-setting night in grand fashion, hitting the wall in 3:32.58, three seconds better than Newark Charter. As the anchor, Lainey Mullins, made her final turn, her teammates knew they had the championship in their grasp in a boisterous, sold-out Rawstrom Natatorium at the University of Delaware.
The Hillers finished with 234 points. Ursuline and Newark Charter tied with 225, and Padua came in third at 215.
Mullins, a freshman, had a sensational night. She won the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1:48.32, breaking a meet record that had stood for 16 years. Mullins also won the 100 free. And the Hillers set a new standard in the 200 free relay, breaking a 10-year-old record. Mullins anchored that race.
Ursuline also had a great night, posting two victories. The Raiders led off the night with a win in the 200 medley relay, with a team of Mackenzie Brandt, Reese Thompson, Mary Kate Keegan and Grace Smith. Halfway through the meet, Brandt captured the 500 free.
Other top-four finishes for the Raiders included a second place by Brandt in the 200 free; a third from Keegan in the 100 breast; a fourth for Keegan in the 100 butterfly; and fourth in the 400 free relay, with Smith, Clare Kornacki, Keegan and Brandt.
That was enough to propel the Raiders into a second-place tie with Newark Charter.
Padua did not win any individual events, but the Pandas’ depth kept them at or near the top of the standings all night long. Megan Speicher and Madison Testa finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 200 free. Speicher took fourth in the 500 free. The team of Testa, Madelynne Samuels, Emily Murphy and Speicher was second in the 200 free relay. And the same quartet teamed up for the 400 free relay, coming in third.
In the boys’ championship meet, held earlier in the day at Rawstrom, Salesianum ruled the pool, winning six of the 12 events to win the trophy going away. It was the Sals’ 35th championship and their fourth straight and .
Sallies earned 434 points, easily outdistancing runner-up Wilmington Charter, who closed with 360.5. Tower Hill came in third.
The Sals opened the meet with a narrow victory over Charter School of Wilmington in the 200 medley relay. That team consisted of Tommy Janton, Alek Elder, Justin Fitzpatrick and Ryan Kelly. Elder came back two events later to take the 200 individual medley, and he won his second individual event later on with the 100 breaststroke. Janton won the 100 butterfly, and two other Sals scored in that event. Janton also won the 100 backstroke. Sallies capped its winning ways by taking the final event, the 400 free relay, behind Janton, Joey Dickson, Bradford Poole and Elder.
The Sals also took second in the 200 free relay, with the team consisting of Fitzpatrick, Kyle Shelly, Brandon Burke and Kelly. They scored in every event except diving.
Saint Mark’s had a good day, finished a half point ahead of Concord for fourth place. The Spartans tied Archmere for third in the 200-yard medley relay. The Spartans’ team consisted of Jake Wisniewski, Aiden Campbell, Justin Byrd and Patrick Palm. The Auks’ quartet included Joe Marino, Jacob Piretti, Max Iacono and Nate Hendrickson. The team of Byrd, Campbell, Palm and Wisniewski took third in the 200 free relay for the Spartans.
Archmere came in seventh out of 26 teams.