Guts and Heart: Despite battling injury & illness, Lady Warriors repeat as L-L champs

By on February 14, 2018

The van ride to Wilson High School last Saturday was a quiet one for the Warwick girls swim team.

Headphones on, the Lady Warriors were preparing their game face.

“There is a somewhat eerie, quiet confidence,” Warwick coach Mark Daum said of his team. “It’s senior-laden, so there’s a lot of experience there and I just think their confidence level was really high.”

It certainly showed.

When Catherine Chen, Tyler Mandrell, Lauryn Ober and Sophie Guthridge touched the wall in a league-record time of 3:34.25 at the Roy G. Snyder Natatorium, they not only clinched a gold medal in the 400 free relay.

They also nailed down the Lady Warriors’ second straight Lancaster-Lebanon League championship.

Manheim Township was considered a heavy favorite after winning the Section One title with a 5-0 record this winter while beating teams by an average margin of 62 points.

But it was Warwick — with its three golds and 13 total medals — that edged the Lady Streaks 99-94 1/2 for the title.

Asked when he thought they had a chance to bring home the crown, Daum quipped, “Probably about 6:40 in the evening … I’m just absolutely speechless. Those kids, I couldn’t be prouder of them. They found it somewhere and that’s going to be with them the rest of their lives. Township was the prohibitive favorite, and I thought we had a shot for second, but not this.”

In addition to the 400 free relay, Warwick also shattered the L-L and meet record while taking gold in the 200 medley relay in 1:46.61 and Mandrell took down the school record while capturing top honors in the 100 backstroke in 57.18 seconds.

For Mandrell, that was one of her four medals, as she also won bronze in the 50 free (24.41), along with competing on the 200 medley and 400 free relay teams.

“Nothing short of a phenomenal meet,” Daum said of Mandrell, who got accepted in December to continue her swimming career at the University of Chicago. “She’s had the best year she’s probably had in her high school career.”

Mandrell — by staying healthy and injury free — is in the minority for the Lady Warriors this year. Among those in the MASH unit for Warwick are Ober, a three-time State qualifier who has battled mono and strep the entire season, and Guthridge, who has undergone two shoulder surgeries in the past 18 months.

But that didn’t stop them from stepping up.

“When you look to the gut and the heart of these kids,” Daum remarked, “that becomes infectious because the other kids see it and they’re like, ‘With everything they’re afflicted with, if they can do it, I can do it too.’”

Warwick’s 200 medley relay was infectious for the rest of the night. Ober turned in a lifetime best split in the breaststroke while helping the Lady Warriors win that event in 1:46.61. That was almost exactly one second faster than the time of 1:47.60 that Warwick swam last year while winning the gold.

Daum said the time is consideration All-American.

“I think they felt that if they swim to what they’re capable of, they could pull it off and win the relay,” Daum said. “I don’t think they knew they were going to go that fast. I just think they focused on all the little things and the outcome was great.”

They got another great outcome in the 200 free, when Chen took bronze in 1:59.07, with Maya Hartzler close behind in fifth in 1:59.26.

That was the first of two bronzes for Chen, who also placed third in the 100 free in 54.07 seconds.

The points continued to come for Warwick in the 50 free, as Mandrell took third in 24.41 seconds and Hannah Greenway placed seventh in 25.36.

“Tyler’s at where she was last year in the 50 free as far as time-wise,” Daum said.

The Lady Warriors then put three on the medal podium in the 100 butterfly, led by Guthridge’s fourth-place finish in 58.14 seconds. On her heels were Morgan Stuhltrager (1:01.39) and Hartzler (1:01.82), who took 6th and 8th, respectively.

Hartzler also competed on the silver-medal winning 200 free relay with Chen, Greenway, and Ober, which touched the wall in 1:40.13. Ober again swam a lifetime best split in that event.

“Lauryn Ober has had a nightmare season, and a lesser kid would have said, ‘OK, I have mono, I’m wiped out,’” Daum said. “And to her, accolades and credit. It’s like, ‘OK, I know my individual events aren’t going to be up to Lauryn Ober’s standards, but if you need me on a relay, put me in.’ She’s just an unbelievable, gutty kid.”

The gutty efforts didn’t stop there.

In the 100 back, Mandrell came through with her school-record time of 57.18 seconds while winning the gold, and Guthridge was close behind for the silver medal in 57.90 seconds. Even though Guthridge has been limited with her injuries, her backstroke — like her split on the 400 free relay — were lifetime-best finishes.

“This is stuff that’s surreal,” Daum said.

The icing on the cake, of course, was gold in the 400 free relay in the final event and the L-L title.

“It’s a cliche, but that was all just guts and heart,” Daum said.

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