Eagles end 19-year drought

It was a day 19 years in the making.

The Bethlehem girls swim team received strong performances from several individuals to claim its first class A title since 1987 by 78 points over Saratoga at last Saturday's Section II Championships at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

It's been a long time coming, said Bethlehem coach Doug Gross.

Senior Becca Stern continued her dominance at the Section II meet. Stern won the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races and anchored Bethlehem's winning 400-yard freestyle relay team to earn her second consecutive Most Valuable Swimmer award.

"I'm just trying to do well," said Stern, who has lost only one individual race in her four-year Section II career. "I love to go to practice because the girls are so good. They make me work harder."

Stern set personal records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. She broke the 24-second barrier in the 50 freestyle for the first time with her time of 23.97 seconds, and she pulled away to a two-second victory in the 100 freestyle with a time of 52.52 seconds.

Stern wasn't the only Bethlehem swimmer who had a big day. Molly Howland and Katie O'Donnell qualified for the state meet in two individual events, two Lady Eagle divers earned All-American consideration and Elise Walsh qualified for states with a second-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke.

"The whole team improved so much this season " not only in their performances, but also in their attitude," said Gross. "They expect to do well."

O'Donnell provided the first individual victory for Bethlehem by pulling away for the 200-yard individual medley title with a time of 2:11.23. She later placed second to Shenendehowa's Kara Zebrowski in the 100-yard backstroke with a state meet-qualifying time of 59.10 seconds, 1.05 seconds faster than her preliminary time two days earlier.

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