In the end, it came down to Connor Sweeney’s anchor leg for Charter of Wilmington in the 400 freestyle relay and a 1.93-second differential between third and fourth place to bring an end to Salesianum’s in-state dual meet win streak as the Force downed Sallies 86-84 on Tuesday night at McKean High.
“I just go back to all the sets during practice that we’ve done,” Sweeney said of his meet-winning swim. “… That really empowers you. I can look at what I’ve done and know this is just another toss in the bucket.
“Just another hundred and then you beat Sallies and you make history.”
Second-ranked Charter has come close to beating Sallies before, coming within a point two years ago. But when the final score went up, a deafening roar resounded through McKean’s pool.
“I really thought we had first in that last relay,” Charter coach Cindy Millison said. “I don’t know where they got all that power, but what an enormous swim that Sallies put out.
“In order to win [the meet] we had to get either first or second and third. We pulled out second and third. These kids swam their hearts out. … I am so proud of them. I really am still in shock.”
For Charter, which has finished second to Sallies in the last four state meets, it was a triumph of in-meet adaptation as Millison changed her lineup after the 500 freestyle in response to what she saw from the top-ranked Sals.
“We did a couple of switches to strengthen our backstroke,” Millison said. “… We put Arthur [Wang], who normally swims the breaststroke, into the backstroke and he pulled it out.”
Wang’s first-place finish in 54.94 seconds pushed Charter’s lead in the meet to 73-67.
“I was ready to swim anything,” Wang said. “This is the best meet of the season. I was really hyped and had my energy flowing. I could swim anything I had to.”
The meet also showcased the strength of Charter’s underclassmen. The third-place relay team that secured the win included freshmen Sweeney and Aaron Buzdygon, junior Trevor Smith and senior Alex Mink.
“We’re only going to get stronger,” Millison said. “Most of our guns don’t graduate. The majority of our strong boys are all juniors.”
The performances in the dual-meet win also will change Millison’s approach to the lineup at next week’s state meet.
“States is a whole different game. … I’ve got about 24 hours to figure out what I’m going to do,” she said. “Some of these swims have totally changed the way I’m going to approach things.”
Salesianum has won the last eight state titles and had not lost a dual meet to a Delaware team since at least 2006. Despite winning the final relay, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Force.
“The last three years, it’s come down to the last relay as it did this year,” Sallies coach Chip Hannig said. “Charter has an excellent team. We just came in a little short.
“But I’m proud of the way these kids swam. I’ll tell you that. Very proud.”