ANNAPOLIS — They were confident of victory, but not assured of it.
Saturday afternoon at the Arundel Olympic Swim Center, Easton High’s boys and Kent Island’s girls performed beyond expectations and got their team victories.
Easton’s Jaden Tipton, David Gardner, Josh Newmier, and Johnny Remaniak swam to a dominating performance in the 400-yard freestyle relay to cap the Warriors’ team victory at the Class 3A-2A-1A East Region Championships.
Led by Olivia Getek, Katia Insley, and Peyton Bergeron, the Buccaneers’ girls swam to a 20-point victory over second-place Stephen Decatur.
It wasn’t just them. Most of the Mid-Shore’s swimmers performed at a higher level in the season’s next-to-last championship event.
The top three individuals and top three relay teams from the region automatically qualified for the state championships Feb. 21-22 at the University of Maryland.
Swimmers from Mid-Shore schools won all but four of the 22 events. Stephen Decatur’s Caleb Vaxmonsky won the 500 freestyle (4 minutes, 56.57 seconds) and the 100 backstroke (55.23) and competed in the Seahawks’ winning 200 medley relay (1:43.15). Decatur’s Richard Poist won the 50 freestyle (23.14).
Easton’s boys finished with 364 points followed by Stephen Decatur (319 points), Kent County (261.5), Queen Anne’s (235.5), Kent Island (229), Cambridge-South Dorchester (205), Chesapeake (164), Pocomoke (90), Southern (71) and Northeast (4).
Kent Island’s girls collected 362 points followed by Queen Anne’s (342), Stephen Decatur (295), Easton (281), Chesapeake (196), Cambridge-SD (196), Northeast (114), Southern (93) and Kent County (34).
“It’s always nerve-wracking,” Bucs head coach Jen Traver said. “Queen Anne’s is such a strong team. Easton has such a strong relay team and those relays make such a difference here. We broke six school records today. Every single swimmer, boys and girls, had their best time in every event. They are so driven today.”
Getek, a senior, swam to individual victories in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly. Her time in the 100 fly (1:01.89) was nearly three seconds faster than her seed time (1:04.87). Her time in the 200 IM (2:19.18) was more than five seconds better than her seed time (2:24.42).
“I went much faster than I thought I would,” Getek said. “Same thing with my 100 fly; I was actually seeded to get second, but I ended up getting first and I dropped like four seconds. Something about today. I went my best times in all four of my events. As a team we did really well. I’m really happy with how hard everyone’s been working and we just bonded this year. I just really think we deserve it. It’s just exciting to win something.”
Kent Island’s Nicole Rickabaugh, a sophomore, placed second in the 200 IM (2:24.9) and Queen Anne’s Megan Lee, a freshman, took third (2:33.46).
Insley, a junior, won the 100 free in 54.39 seconds. She touched the wall well ahead of Rachel Rickabaugh (57.68), a freshman, who took second, and Queen Anne’s senior Sarah Bowyer (58.33), who was third.
Bergeron, a sophomore, won the 100 backstroke in 1:07.49, more than a second better than her seed time (1:08.97). Queen Anne’s Lily Golden took second (1:08.49) and Jasmine Stubbs took third (1:08.93).
Queen Anne’s senior McKenzie Hemingway won two individual events and competed in a winning relay. A three-time defending state champion in the 100 breaststroke, she won that event in 1:06.19, more than three seconds faster than her seed time (1:09.4). Easton’s Kylie Weems took second (1:12.93) and Kent Island’s Mimi Quinn was third (1:13.41). Hemingway won the 50 free in 24.27 seconds, touching ahead of Insley (24.72) and Weems (25.85). Hemingway also teamed with Stubbs, Golden, and Bowyer to win the 200 medley relay (2:01.63), with Kent Island’s team of Bergeron, Nicole Rickabaugh, Getek, and Insley a close second (2:01.94).
Kent Island’s Camryn Sedora, Rachel Rickabaugh, Getek, and Insley ended the meet with a victory in the 400 free relay (3:48.43).
Molly Kroeger, a freshman, led Easton’s girls with first-place performances in the 200 and 500 free. She finished the 200 in 1:55.94, well ahead of Kent Island’s Rachel Rickabaugh (2:06.55) who placed second. Kroeger cruised to a nearly 40-second victory in the 500 with a time of 5:13.36. KI’s Bergeron took second (5:53).
Kroeger also teamed with Brianna Friedman, Weems, and Kate Allen to win the 200 free relay (1:44.3).
Easton’s Gardner, a sophomore, won the boys’ 200 free with a time of 1:51.14. Chesapeake’s Aiden Linehan took second (1:55.06) and Queen Anne’s Nathan Olan was third (1:55.08), well ahead of his seed time (2:01.66). Gardner also took second in the 500 free (5:02.03) with teammate Jamie Erskine third (5:49.65).
Remaniak, another Easton sophomore, won the 200 individual medley in 2:06.29 to beat his seed time of 2:08.56. Decatur’s Gavin Stearn placed second (2:08.97) and Kent County’s Andrew Smith took third (2:12). Remaniak also won the 100 breaststroke in 1:03.32. He was followed by Decatur’s Jack Slaysman (1:05.78) and Kent County’s Smith (1:08.08).
Tipton, a junior, won the 100 butterfly in 53.33 seconds, ahead of Decatur’s Poist (57.82) and Queen Anne’s Olan (58.9).
Newmier, a senior, broke 50 seconds for the first time to win the 100 free (49.53).
“It went really well,” Newmier said. “I just took in everything the coaches have been saying all season, blocked out the pain, and just swam hard. I finished, looked at my time, and I was shocked. I’ve never gone that fast before.”
Newmier said his team “performed amazing. All season we’ve been extremely versatile. I think today our lineup was different than any other meet this season as that’s just cause all the swimmers are very well rounded. We have really good depth and we’re clutch.”
Easton’s Colin Kelly, a junior, took second in the 50 free (23.72). He joined Tipton, Corey Wazniak, and Remaniak to win the 200 free relay (1:32.6). Kent County took second (1:37.92) with the relay team of Shane Saunders, Liam Peregoy, Matt Rickloff, and Andrew Smith. Queen Anne’s was third (1:42.17) with Garrett Cole, Matthew Walls, Ivan Goncharuk, and Olah.
“Everything went according to plan,” Warriors head coach Kara Erskine said. “There were a couple of little issues here and there. We actually did better in some of the relays on the boys’ side. I thought we could get the 400 free relay based on Baysides. We had changed the swimmers, so I didn’t know what we would do, but, yeah, I was happy to get two relays. I wanted to get all three but … oh, I was kind of greedy. Everyone killed it. They swam really, really good times. We’ve been training them hard this week, just getting them to race, race, race and without a lot of turnaround time. And they proved to themselves, they proved to us, they can do it.”