Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
L-L LEAGUE SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS Competitors with benefits
nHempfield's Denny Atkinson and Manheim Township's Dan Ross, two of the league's top freestyle racers, will be worth watching when they compete in Friday's boys' meet at the Lititz recCenter. BY PETE KAUFFMAN, Sports Writer
It may be the most difficult event in scholastic swimming.
Not because it involves a mastery -- or at least a good understanding -- of all four strokes, like the 200-yard individual medley.
Not because it's an all-out sprint, where there's absolutely no room for even the tiniest of errors, like the 50 freestyle.
And not because it takes endurance, like the 500 free, where you cover 20 lengths of the pool all by your lonesome.
The 200 freestyle is a somewhat no-man's-land event. It's not really a sprint --although it's becoming more of one -- and it's not really a distance event.
"You have to take it out strong,'' Hempfield senior Denny Atkinson said of the event, in which he is seeded second at Friday's L-L League Boys' Swimming Championships.
"You can't save up too much, because before you know it, it's going to be over,'' added Atkinson, who's headed to Rider in the fall on a swimming scholarship.
Atkinson will have his work cut out for him Friday, since he'll be competing against Manheim Township junior Dan Ross in both the 200 and 500 freestyle events when the 13th edition of the L-L Championships get under way at 7 p.m. at the Lititz recCenter.
The girls' meet will be held tonight, also at 7 and also in Lititz.
"The 200 is a tricky race,'' said Ross. "You can't take it out too fast, but you can't take it out too slow.''
"My thinking, if you're asking about race strategy, is just getting in there and giving it everything,'' Ross added.
Both Atkinson and Ross said that they're not rivals in the traditional sense, but with one being from Hempfield and the other from Township, there's going to be some of that.
"Whenever we get in the pool together, we have great races,'' Ross said. "I love racing Denny. He brings out the best in me.''
Atkinson echoed those sentiments: "It's fun to race him. It always seems to be a good race, and we seem to get good times, when we go (head-to-head).''
They'll be head-to-head in both the 200 and 500, and in both events, Ross is seeded first ahead of Atkinson.
Ross (1:42.99), Atkinson (1:45.22) and Warwick junior Justin Mitchell (1:48.29) are all below 1:50 in the 200. That same trio is also under 5:00 in the 500, with Ross (4:45.35) leading the way, followed by Atkinson (4:50.26) and Mitchell (4:53.37).
"Dan Ross is extremely dedicated as a swimmer. He is like a machine when it comes to distance freestyle,'' Dan Graybill, who coaches Ross in both high school and with Overlook in the Lancaster Summer League, wrote in an email.
"Denny is a fierce competitor (and) a great role model for younger swimmers, out of the mold of Kyle Salyards and Joe Kinderwater,'' Hempfield coach Steve Beck said in an email. "He is good because he works at it. Great swimmers have great work ethics and attitudes; Denny has both.''
Atkinson said going in as No. 2 isn't necessarily a bad thing. "It does take a little pressure off, being in Lane 5 instead of Lane 4, but, in the end, it doesn't matter,'' he said.
No matter how they try and deflect it, the pressure will be on. Not just on themselves, but on their teams.
Hempfield, Township and Warwick tied for the Section One dual-meet title, with the Warriors beating the Black Knights, Hempfield then beating the Streaks, and Township later toppling Warwick.
"I guess there's pressure, but we're all excited about it,'' said Ross, who trains with the York YMCA after spending a year with the Diplomat Club. Prior to joining Diplomat, Ross was with the Lancaster YMCA, which no longer fields a competitive swim club program.
"With it being a three-way tie (for the section), that just makes it huge competionwise at leagues,'' he added.
"It should be a good close one for the boys' side since we all tied for the section,'' said Atkinson, who trains with the Diplomat Club, which is directed by his mother, Gwyn. Atkinson also swims for his mom in the summer league at Mountville.
"Township looks good on paper, so I guess they've got the best chance of winning,'' added Atkinson. "We have some guys who are seeded just outside the top 8, and if we can get them to move up, and the guys who are seeded can hold their spots, then we've got a chance, too.''
Medals are awarded to the top six finishers. Points are awarded to the top 8. Points for placewinners from schools that don't sponsor teams in L-L League dual-meet season will not be awarded.
The Hempfield boys own five league meet titles, while Township and Cedar Crest each have four, including the 2011 crown which MT and CC shared.
On the girls' side, Township, Hempfield and Warwick are among the favorites.
Township owns six girls' crowns and Hempfield five, including the 2001 title they shared, while Cedar Crest claimed the other two.
The Blue Streaks won both team titles in 2012.
Among the top seeds for the boys' meet are Lancaster Catholic's Everett Albert in the 200 IM (1:55.03) and 100 freestyle (47.57), MT's Kameron Kubicki in the 50 free (22.18), Garden Spot's Andrew Schrantz in the 100 butterfly (52.20), Northern Lebanon's Ethan Gehenio in the 100 backstroke (53.59) and Warwick's Nick Beard in the 100 breaststroke (1:02.21).
Hempfield is seeded first in both the 200 (1:31.25) and 400 (3:18.55) freestyle relays, while Township is the top seed in the 200 medley relay (1:43.44).
The girls' top seeds include Township's Katie Diller in the 200 free (1:55.29) and 100 fly (57.93), Hempfield's Amber McDonnell in the 200 IM (2:05.76), Val Urban in the 500 free (5:09.36) and Paige Spradling in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.06), Elizabethtown's Tess Hayward in the 50 free (24.16) and Warwick's Morgan Haney in the 100 free (54.54) and Emily Cameron in the 100 back (58.75).
Reigning meet and league record-holder Warwick is seeded first in the 200 medley relay (1:52.91), Hempfield is the top seed in the 200 free relay (1:41.54) and Township is first in the 400 free relay (3:41.37).