Stephanie Dryden dove into the pool at the start of the 50-yard freestyle race as the two-time defending state champion. After she touched the wall 24.13 seconds later, she was still the fastest girls swimmer in the state.
“Knowing that I’ve worked so hard toward swimming for so many years now, it feels amazing to be able to say that I’m finishing my high school career as a three-time state champion,” the Newark Charter senior said of her performance at the 2020 DIAA Girls Swimming and Diving State Championship, held at the University of Delaware’s Rawstrom Natatorium on Saturday. “I really wouldn’t have gotten here without the constant support of my coaches as well as my teammates along the way.”
Dryden’s performance in the championship meet took place in the same pool she plans to swim in for the next four years for the Blue Hens. Her coach, Kurt Wittman, couldn’t be more proud.
“In this race, a swimmer has to have a perfect start, perfect turn and a perfect finish,” Wittman explained. “If any one of those things goes wrong, then the chance to win the race diminishes as it is the shortest race in the meet. Stephanie, as she has the previous two years, was able to swim a perfect race to win the 50 freestyle event.”
“I am extremely happy for Stephanie as she has now accomplished this feat for three straight years,” Wittman added. “As a coach, it is always nice to know that you can put a fast girl in a race, let alone a girl that is the three-time defending state champion. It has been an honor to coach Stephanie for the last five years on this team and it has been even more fun watching her compete and grow as a swimmer and as a woman during this time.”
Newark Charter, the two-time defending champion, wasn’t able to three-peat, but did finish tied for second place (225 points) with Ursuline Academy, just nine points behind state champion Tower Hill.
“The team’s performance [Saturday night] was simply extraordinary,” Wittman said. “When we swam on Thursday night in the preliminary meet, most of the girls that qualified for the championship meet on Saturday swam best times. But what makes this even more impressive is that almost every single girl that swam on Saturday once again swam best times, which continually improved our chances of competing for a third straight state championship.”
Dryden also placed third in the 100 backstroke (57.34) to add points to Newark Charter’s overall score and Amanda Caruccio finished third in the 100 freestyle.
Newark Charter placed second in the 200 medley relay (Dryden, Kate Menzer, Maya Rigor and Megan Kelby) and 400 freestyle relay (Amanda Caruccio, Menzer, Rigor and Dryden).
“Although we did not win this third championship, I could not be more proud of how all of the swimmers came out on Saturday night, swam their hearts out, and gave everything that they had,” Wittman said.
In the boys championship, Newark Charter’s Benjamin Doughty finished second in the 100 butterfly (52.57).
Representing Newark High, Daniel Manglass placed third in the 1-meter diving competition (312.45) and Rachel Tims second (328.25).
Newark Charter basketball
The Patriots Special Olympics Unified basketball team advanced to the state tournament semifinals with a 24-21 victory over Milford on Monday night. Newark Charter will travel to Caesar Rodney High School on March 9 for a 6 p.m. tipoff against the Riders. The winner advances to the state championship game, held March 13 at 6 p.m. at the Bob Carpenter Center.
Newark Charter’s boys team fell to Caesar Rodney, 73-64, in the first round of the state tournament Tuesday night. Senior guard Brian Lesher capped off his stellar career with 25 points and senior Khalil Proctor chipped in 12.