One rises above
Cherry Hill West girls are the best in Public A
Monday, February 27, 2006
By ANDRE WATSON
Cherry Hill West High School coach Scott Sweeten knew it was coming. It happens to every championship coach at any level. In football, there's the Gatorade bath and in swimming there is the dive.
Some might actually call it a push.
But after Sunday's Public A state final between Cherry Hill West and Westfield, Sweeten made sure to be prepared for anything.
Allison Rolish won the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke, and Amanda Waldner added wins in the 100 and 200 frees, as Cherry Hill West dominated from start to finish en route to a 102-68 win.
"You always bring a change of clothes just in case," said a soaked Sweeten, minutes after taking the victory plunge into the pool. "I am totally overjoyed for these girls because very few teams love each other as much as they did, and that made them fight for each other."
The Lions dominated from the start, winning the first six events, while also placing swimmers in the top three of each event to bolt out to a 54-24 lead. The Lions finished 1-2 in the 200 IM, 50 free, and 100 free. Unlike in past meets, in which Sweeten gave extra motivational speeches to help his team focus, this time the methodical coach said little.
"I just reminded them that they should look around at each other and that even though a lot of them would be back next year, they would never swim with this team again, which included nine seniors that wanted to win really badly," Sweeten said. "I just said, "Make sure that you don't owe any teammate an apology for what you do today.' But I could see that they were all ready to go."
For Rolish, one of the nine West seniors, Sunday's championship meet was a perfect way to end her high school career.
"This feels great," Rolish said. "It's the perfect ending to four years with this team and all the girls. I mean, I couldn't have asked for anything else. This was a great meet like all the others we've done. It's just been remarkable what we've been able to do."
Westfield took their lone victory of the afternoon when Alexi Kuska won the 500 freestyle. But the Lions weren't too far behind, finishing second and third in the event. Sweeten said it was important for his team to have multiple swimmers place in the top three of events.
"Westfield is very similar to Cherry Hill East," Sweeten said. "They've got a lot of depth and if you're not careful, they can 2-3-4 you to death. But we were able to exploit the freestyle events again."
Sweeten, known for his businesslike approach to coaching, caught himself enjoying his team's triumph, as he put down his clipboard after the 100 backstroke and watched his team win the final two events of the day.
"You get to a point where you just want to just stop, especially after a state championship meet," Sweeten said. "You want to just stop and savor watching the kids interact, especially since we had all of our seniors in the last four events. I wanted to sit back and watch them enjoy it." Reach Andre Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org