Fractions of seconds – sometimes milliseconds – separate the outstanding from the ordinary in swimming.
Holy Redeemer's 200-yard free relay team knows the feeling all too well. Nearly a blink of the eye, two-tenths of a second, separated its sixth-place medal performance at the PIAA Class 2A championships from the 10th spot.
Choosing a member from a relay team presents problems. However, the Royals' Julie Ann Mahle's relay and individual performances at the state meet made her The Times Leader Girls Swimmer of the Year.
The Holy Redeemer junior swam to a 14th-place performance in the 100 backstroke at the state meet in Lewisburg. She dropped her seed time by over two seconds (1:00.08) in preliminaries to provide her a spot in the meet's final competition.
The previous day, Mahle manned the second leg of a 200 free relay team – consisting of Elizabeth Finnegan, Rachel Finnegan and Melissa Cruz – that touched the wall in 1:41.33 for sixth place. It marked Mahle's second state medal in the event. Her relay team placed eighth at PIAAs in 2011.
"We weren't expecting that at all," Mahle said. "That came out of nowhere. The Finnegan sisters did really well, and we just bonded overall as a team."
Her outstanding state performance overshadowed her four second-place swims at districts. She claimed silver in the 200 IM, 100 back and two relays. The 200 free relay's time of 1:39.27 was 11-hundreths of a second short of the former district record broken by first-place Scranton Prep.
"Districts were a rough meet," she said. "My teammates and family supported me, and I stayed mentally focused for states."
In a collective effort, Mahle and her teammates' performance guided Holy Redeemer to its third consecutive District 2 title.
"I credit our team's spirit for pushing me forward through states. My teammates were helping me throughout the year to do my best."