Home Local Sports Ursuline Academy uses depth to successfully defend DIAA girls swimming championship: Photo...

Ursuline Academy uses depth to successfully defend DIAA girls swimming championship: Photo gallery

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The Ursuline Raiders celebrate their second consecutive state championship at Rawstrom Natatorium at the University of Delaware on Feb. 24. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

NEWARK — Perhaps it was only fitting that Ursuline’s first-place finishes in the 2024 Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association girls swimming and diving championships came in a pair of relay races. After all, their state championship performance was a team effort, a testament to the team’s depth.

Ursuline, which wrapped up its third consecutive undefeated regular season, won its second straight title the evening of Feb. 24 at the University of Delaware Rawstrom Natatorium. Unlike last year’s nailbiter over the Charter School of Wilmington and Tower Hill, the Raiders had a comfortable margin of victory this season. The Raiders finished with 357.5 points, nearly 100 better than Charter’s 262.

The Raiders also won back-to-back championships in 2016-17. It is the school’s ninth title overall; the other five were won consecutively between 1983-87.

The meet opened with Ursuline in front. The team of Caitlin Horning, Bella Caraballo, Eliza Johnson and Samantha Weinert took the 200-yard medley relay. Later on in the meet, the group of Weinert, Horning, Mia Devlin and Taylor Aiello captured the 200-yard freestyle relay.

In the other events, the Raiders relied on their numbers, scoring in most of the “B” finals — the consolation heats — as well as in the “A” finals, which included the top eight qualifiers.

“For sure, the depth” coach Kelly Ellis said about the key to the Raiders’ win. “We had four people in the 200 IM (individual medley). We had three people in the top eight of the 100 back and the 100 free. So, depth for sure.”

After the win in the medley relay, the Raiders turned to the large number of girls who qualified for the championship that Ellis mentioned. Johnson took second in the individual medley, and three others added points for Ursuline. Three competed in the two heats of the 100-yard butterfly. Johnson took third in the 100 freestyle, which was won by Brandywine senior Rachel Bockrath in 49.01 seconds, a new record.

Horning took second to lead three Raiders in the 100 backstroke, with Mia Devlin right behind her in third. Horning was fourth in the 100 fly. Caraballo came in second in the 100 breaststroke and the 500 free. Caraballo, a senior, took it all in after the team received its trophy.

“It was just great. High energy,” she said. “We all went into it with a lot of confidence, not too much confidence to be obnoxious. A lot of us train together. We all know how much we trained, how much time we put in, so it’s really exciting.

“That’s my first time making the podium, so it was a good way to end it.”

In the last event of the meet, the 400 free relay, Ursuline’s McKinley Jefferson, Caraballo, Devlin and Johnson was second.

Raiders coach Kelly Ellis said she is fortunate that swimming is so popular at one of the smaller schools to field a team. Her roster lists 37 girls.

“This is the biggest team I’ve ever had,” Ellis said. “It’s amazing that we have so many kids at a school this size. Having three sports going on at the same time, and they fill out all their teams with a surplus. It is amazing.”

It was a successful night for the other Catholic schools as well. Saint Mark’s finished fourth. Rowan O’Donoghue took second in the 200 freestyle and fourth in the 500 free. The 200-yard free relay team of Mia Potter, Marcy Kappes, Ariana Procope and O’Donoghue placed second.

Archmere and Padua tied for eighth place. The Auks’ Elizabeth Maher earned third in the 50 free and fourth in the 100 free. Archmere also reached the podium in the medley relay, finishing third. The team consisted of Kendall Hanna, Kathryn Pyne, Aoife McGurk and Maher.

For the Pandas, the team of Logan Bagley, Sophia Jurgaitis, Kailani Enos and Elsa Lutcher was fourth in the 200 medley relay. Bagley was fourth in the 50 free and the 100 backstroke.

Photos by Mike Lang.