Vikings second at PCL meet

Wood catches Prendy in final standings

By Lyle Fitzsimmons - Intelligencer Staff Writer - 3-8-98

Coach Charlie Stillwell's shaved "W" is good luck for (from left) Liz Niszczak, Carol Crouthamel, Jillian Fitzgerald and Mary Skonicki at the PCL meet on Sunday. (Staff photo: Leslie Ballantyne)

PHILADELPHIA - Never let it be said that Archbishop Wood swim coach Charlie Stillwell doesn't get into his job. Sporting a newly shaved head with the letter "W" standing out boldly in the rear, Stillwell watched as his Vikings raced to a second-place finish in the Philadelphia Catholic League championship meet Sunday at La Salle University's Hayman Hall. "I knew coming in that we were about nine points behind (Archbishop Prendergast) for second place, so what I wanted to do was give them a little motivation," Stillwell said of his unique look. "I figured if I did it, it would show them that they could do it, too. "They were swimming really well and it was just to kind of keep them up and keep them going. I was hoping it would be enough to get them second place." Wood actually gained its target placement about 20 minutes after the conclusion of the meet, when an official recount of the event-by-event scoring confirmed the Vikings' 496-1/2 points and Predergast's 495. Cardinal O'Hara won the team title with 669. Stillwell and assistant coach Cindy Fitzgerald, who had Wood trailing by five points in their unofficial meet tally, greeted the official announcement with pure emotion, leaping fully clothed into the water to the cheers of the Vikings' swimmers and fans on the pool deck. "Our dual meet with (Prendergast) was very close, so we knew going in that this was going to be close, too," Stillwell said. "It just so happens that our kids swam so well they were able to overcome the deficit they'd had the first time around." A dominating performance in the 100-yard breaststroke from Carol Crouthamel put the Sunday rally over the top, moving Wood from an 18-1/2-point disadvantage to a 13-1/2-point lead with one event remaining. The sophomore completed the route in 1 minute, 7.81 seconds, a full 4.6 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Shannon Hay of Cardinal O'Hara. Fellow Viking sophomore Kristin Pszalgowski was fourth, finishing in 1:15.62. Prendergast earned a team win in the final race, the 400 freestyle relay, but a fourth-place effort from Katelyn Ladden, Jessica Stillwell, Pszalgowski and Crouthamel allowed the Vikings to escape with their razor-thin lead. "This is definitely a team meet more than an individual meet for myself," Crouthamel said. "I really get excited because the team's excited and it's their big meet. It's a lot of fun." Paced by Crouthamel, junior Liz Niszczak and sophomore Mary Skonicki, Wood actually earned victories in seven of the event's 11 races, but was hurt in overall point standings by Cardinal O'Hara's superior depth. Crouthamel added the 200 individual medley to her breaststroke triumph, while Niszczak won the 100 butterfly and Skonicki took both the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke. The three teamed with Jillian Fitzgerald for a meet-record win in the 200 medley relay (1:53.54), while Skonicki and Niszczak joined Fitzgerald and Ladden for a first place in the 200 freestyle relay. "Carol, Liz and Mary have probably been my best three swimmers all year," Stillwell said. "I ask (Mary) to do something, and she just does it. I point out that she needs to beat this girl in the backstroke or that girl in whatever else she's swimming, and she's been doing it. "I've been swimming her all around and she can really swim anything she wants to, so I'm not surprised at all by her performance." Skonicki lived up to her top seeding in the solo freestyle race, topping Cardinal O'Hara's Jen Fleagle by 1.24 seconds. She followed it up three races later in the backstroke when, after trailing early, she rallied to beat out Prendergast's Catie Biester by 1.80 seconds. "I did so well. I had no idea I was going to do that well," Skonicki said. "We had goal times, but I broke both of them (Saturday) and I was hoping to drop them again, and I did. I was so pumped for this." Other meet winners included Prendergast's Jessie Smith, who took the 200 freestyle in 1:58.85 and added the 500 freestyle in 5:14.91, and Archbishop Ryan's Colleen Slowey, who won the 50 freestyle in 25.60 seconds. Niszczak was third in the 500 freestyle and Fitzgerald took second behind Slowey in the 50 freestyle. Archbishop Ryan, St. Hubert's and Archbishop Carroll rounded out the team scoring with 374.5, 360 and 126 points, respectively.