As North Harford junior Lizzie Catrambone finished the final leg of the final event of the night —the 400 meter freestyle relay — the splashes of water were drowned out by the wails of the crowd bouncing off the walls of Magnolia Middle School.
Those in attendance at the 2018 UCBAC girls swimming championships on Tuesday sensed a changing of the guard, which the North Harford Lady Hawks swimming team cemented with the last swim of the night.
Ultimately, North Harford scored 308 points and ended the C. Milton Wright Lady Mustangs’ remarkable run of nine consecutive girls titles. The Bel Air Lady Bobcats were the runners-up, tallying 291 points, and the defending champion Lady Mustangs finished in third with 289.
Catrambone was a major contributor to her team’s victory. She participated in all three of the Lady Hawks’ relay victories: the 200-yard freestyle relay, 200-yard medley relay, and the 400-yard freestyle relay. She also added two first place finishes in the 100-yard freestyle and the 200-yard individual medley.
“I swim year round with [the opposing school’s swimmers] and I knew that they were amazing swimmers,” Catrambone said. “I just wanted to try my best and get a best time in my races. Obviously, I had a drive to win.”
All evening, North Harford, Bel Air, and C. Milton Wright battled neck and neck for the pole position, as all three teams held the top spot at various points of the night.
North Harford started the night strong with a win in the 200-yard medley relay, besting Bel Air’s quartet of Becca Enter, Eliza Cohen, Syndey Mika, and Emma Mano by 1.1 seconds to collect 40 points out of the gate. Bel Air took the lead after the second race, when freshman Cassidy Hare bested her seed time by seven seconds and won the 200-yard freestyle.
North Harford used the next two races to create a noticeable chasm between themselves and the other schools. After Catrambone won the 200-yard individual medley, sophomore Lauren Seco outlasted Bel Air’s Broxa Benesh to claim the 50-yard freestyle. That gave North Harford a bit of breathing room over the Bobcats and a 32-point cushion over the reigning champion Mustangs.
However, neither C. Milton Wright nor Bel Air went away. The Mustangs stayed within range for the first several events, ascending from seventh in the opening race to second by the end of the 100-yard butterfly.
They eventually grabbed their first lead of the night thanks to freshman Kassidy Hare. She shaved .43 seconds off of her seed time, as she coasted to a 500-yard freestyle victory. The lead as a team, however, was slim and short lived.
The Lady Hawks swiped the lead back with their 200-yard freestyle relay win and didn’t surrender the advantage for the rest of the meet.
C. Milton Wright fell to third place after Cohen and North Harford freshman Erin O’Leary finished first and second, respectively, in the 100-yard breaststroke. Lady Mustangs’ sophomore Logan Kasar finished third.
North Harford, Bel Air and C. Milton Wright dominated the night, as swimmers from their respective teams won all but two events. Paterson Mill sophomore Katerina Lomis outlasted North Harford’s Seco and Catrambone to win the 100-yard backstroke.
The other race — the 100-yard butterfly — provided the crowd with an exciting photo finish.
Edgewood High sophomore Priscilla VelezVazquez needed every bit of her outstretched arms to slip by Lady Mustangs junior Julia Walsh, beating her by .01 seconds to take home the top spot with a time of 1 minute, 4.57 seconds.
North Harford stole the show in the end, though, improving their point total from last year by 97 points to secure their place as the top girls swim team in the UCBAC.
“The girls worked really, really hard this year and they deserved their win”, North Harford coach Hilary Stanmeyer said. “I’m really looking forward to our years to come. I think we can hold first place for a while.”
Final team scores: 1. North Harford, 308; 2. Bel Air, 291; 3. C. Milton Wright, 289; 4. Patterson Mill, 262; 5. Fallston, 196.5; 6. Edgewood, 154; 7. Harford Tech, 140; 8. Aberdeen, 116.5; 9. Havre de Grace, 113.5; 10. Joppatowne, 91.5; 11. Elkton, 65.