BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – Check the parking lot at a high school basketball game and you’ll find a wide variety of vehicles. Do the same at a scholastic wrestling match and you’ll discover mostly Jeeps, SUVs and motorcycles.
But if you comb the parking lot at a scholastic swim meet you’ll see Porsches, BMWs and Lexuses.
The athletic pursuit of competitive swimming is all about work, work and more work. But the discipline it engrains in its competitors is something that lasts for a lifetime.
On Thursday night at Cedar Crest’s John Davis Natatorium, the host Falcons and Palmyra celebrated the sport with the annual non-league meeting of Lebanon County’s only scholastic swim programs. And when the chlorine had been wiped from everyone’s eyes, there was no clear verdict.
In the boys’ meet, Cedar Crest defeated the Cougars 113-56. And in the girls’ portion, Palmyra bested the Falcons 102-68.
With the result, the Cedar Crest boys improved to 3-1 on the season, while their counterparts from Palmyra slipped to 2-2. The Cougar girls are now 4-0 overall, and the Falcon girls fell to 1-3.
“All the swimmers I’ve known over the years have been very disciplined,” said Cedar Crest head coach Beth Yocum, “and it carries over to the rest of life. I’ve had employers come up to me and say, ‘Do you have anybody?’ If you swim four years in high school and four years in college, employers are going to take a chance on you.
“It’s an individual sport, but when you have team opportunities you have to take them,” Yocum continued. “It keeps kids interested and promotes comraderie. It prepares people for life, and they’re giving people. We try to stress giving back to the community. But it’s a sport that doesn’t get a lot of publicity.”
“Here’s a great example,” said Palmyra head coach Cynthia Lyons. “We have two new swimmers this year who came to us from the football team. They’re both hard workers and one of them recently said to me, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ In swimming, you swim a set and then you swim another set and then you swim another set faster. Swimmers are amazing people as a whole.”
Of the 11 events in the meet, the Cedar Crest boys claimed ten first-place finishes, and seven different swimmers did the damage. On the other hand, the Palmyra girls got a pair of individual triumphs from Peyten Lyons and won all three relay events.
“Today, I thought, went as expected,” said Yocum. “We knew it was going to be a tough girls’ meet because last year we only won by two points. I told our girls, ‘Every team must find their own identity. Hold your heads high and swim with pride.’ We stayed in it as long as we could.
“For the boys, we went into the last two meets with a diversified lineup just to find combinations,” added Yocum. “We have a lot of ninth and tenth graders, so we’re just trying to look at different relay combinations. We have to come up with new combinations.”
“It’s not our league, but it is Lebanon County,” said Lyons. “This is truly a showcase of Lebanon County swimming. And we have great boys and girls swimming in Lebanon County.
“We swam real well,” continued Lyons. “Our first half of the meet wasn’t as good as our second half. But for this point of the season we had some decent times. Going into the break, I thought the girls could’ve been stronger, but coming out of it they were.”
Adam Lough, Henry Overholt, Alex Dishong, Brady Galbraith, Will Gelgot, Derek Simpson and Brandon Bord all claimed individual victories for the Falcon boys. Simpson, Bord, Galbraith and Gelgot combined to win the 200 medley relay, Dishong, Bord, Gelgot and Daniel Neiswender teamed to take the 200 freestyle relay and Galbraith, Neiswender, Dishong and Georgiy Soltanov collaborated in the 400 free relay.
“Boys-wise, for sure,” said Yocum of the Falcons’ traditional domination of this particular meet. “With the girls I think I’ve seen the trend changing the last three to five years. For their girls team, they’ve had some nice changes over the last few years. I think their boys team is coming around because the numbers are there.
“December is a feeling out process,” Yocum continued. “It gives you a chance to try things out. The record isn’t as important because we’re trying to find out who are team is. Are we disappointed the girls lost? Yes. What are our goals? It’s to get as many kids into the postseason as possible.”
“The kids know this (Cedar Crest) has always been a strong program,” said Lyons. “Over the years they’ve dominated it, without a doubt.”
In addition to Lyons’ exacta, the Cougar girls received individual wins from Jessica Zeigler, Reney Hess and Marybeth Rudy. Also emerging triumphant were the Palmyra teams of Katie Schreckengast, Mailander Huffman, Hess and Breanna Purnell in the 200 medley relay, Schreckengast, Purnell, Lyons and Alana Sheriff in the 200 free relay and Hess, Zeigler, Sheriff and Lyons in the 400 freestyle relay.
For the Cedar Crest girls, Hannah Byler captured both freestyle sprints.
“It’s a guessing game,” said Yocum of her pre-match strategizing. “I thought I matched up pretty well with them, until I ran out of swimmers. I had to put girls into the medley to stay in the meet. The nail in the coffin was when they out-touched us in the 200 free relay. Their 200 free relay, on paper, is faster than our’s. But I’m very pleased with the girls’ performance. So yeah, there’s a little strategy.”
“Peyton Lyons swam well,” said Lyons of her daughter. “Between Peyton, Reney Hess and Alana Sheriff we have some pretty strong relay swimmers and some good depth. Our 500 girls went one-two and Jessica (Zeigler) had a real strong meet.
“The nice thing about the holidays is that we have a full week of practice,” Lyons concluded. “We don’t miss a beat. That can only help us.”