February 20th, 2020

SHA swimmers "Burn Down the House" for title

Block_eric thorne

Eric Thorne

Staff Writer

SHA swimmers "Burn Down the House" for title
SHA record setting 200 medley relay team of Annabel Crush, Madeline Meredith, Claire Donan and Emily Lenihan /photo by Christine Hardy

LEXINGTON, Ky – Sacred Heart brought the heat and continued its dominance in Kentucky swimming easily outdistancing the field for their eighth straight state title and 31st overall at the Pannell Swim Shop / Kentucky High School Athletic Association Swimming & Diving Championships at the University of Kentucky on Friday.

A Valkyrie tradition of selecting a theme for the season it was senior Claire Donan who suggested an appropriate one to represent the season finale.

Dressed as firefighters they came to send a message.

“It actually was my favorite song “Burn the House Down”  by AJR," Donan laughed. “I jokingly said what if we did firefighters and my friends said no that’s funny you should do that, and the team all agreed so that would end up our theme.”

They torched the pool winning 8 of the 12 events.

The Valkyries finished with 503 points and were followed by Manual (159), Christian Academy of Louisville (149), Dixie Heights (139) and Assumption (126). Mercy finished 20th with 24 points.

Annabel Crush and Emily Lenihan got the night started winning their third straight state title in the 200-medley relay with a state-record performance. They teamed with Claire Donan to back up their 2019 title and were joined by Madeline Meredith in a time of 1:40.43. Donan was also part of the winning team in 2017.

Donan, a senior who will be heading to Michigan to swim, finished with three wins on the night, but was most proud of what she hopes inspired the younger Valkyries.

“For the underclassmen I’ve seen a big chunk of them train and they are really hard workers and the upperclassmen we’ve been through this, so I had to just talk them into believing in themselves,”
 Donan said. “When you are young it’s hard to believe in yourself. We teach them hey you can hang with the big kids so do the best you can do because that is all you can do, but it’s really cool to see and inspire them.”

In the 200 freestyle Mackenzie Lanning claimed first in 1:49.40 for the Valkyries after finishing third last year, and Caroline Pape (1:50.57) touched in third.

Crush (1:57.57), a junior and North Carolina State commit, edged Donan (1:59.14) in the 200 IM as she did last year, after Donan topped Crush in 2018.

Christian Academy’s Gabi Albiero swam to her fifth straight title in the 50 freestyle in a blistering 22.36 breaking her own state record time ahead of Assumptions Ella Welch (22.98) and Meredith (23.38).

The CAL senior followed that up with a three-peat title the 100-butterfly title in 52.08 ahead of Lenihan in 54.18. She finished her Centurion career with eight state titles and will be swimming for her father Arthur Albiero at the University of Louisville next year.

Welch struck gold in the 100 freestyle with a state-record time of 49.58. The Rocket sophomore was also the defending title holder. Pape finished in second with a time of 50.88.

Lanning clocked a time of 4:55.33 to win the 500 freestyle, after the sophomore finished fifth last year.

Selina Reil of Dixie Heights was second (4:55.58) followed by a pair of Valkyries in Meredith Bauer (5:03.07) and Emma Jury (5:03.96).

Valkyrie coach Jim Luebbe emphasized having fun, enjoying a new venue in Lexington and getting away hopefully helped relax and focus his team.

“We had this idea of 5 in surpassing 500 points; get five event state wins; five state records, five cheers and then five posters,” Luebbe said. “As for burn the house down it was a motivator of the girls and represented our attitude of bringing so much fire, passion and enthusiasm and doing that would ‘burn the house down’”

Mission accomplished on four of the five 5’s.

The SHA foursome of Brinly Hardy, Chloe McDonald, Pape and Meredith outdistanced CAL and Manual to win 200 freestyle relay in 1:34.95. Pape, a junior, and Meredith, a sophomore, were both on last year’s winning relay team.

Crush claimed her third state title in the 100 backstroke in 52.95 ahead of Krista Wheeler of Collegiate (53.67) and Lenihan (54.0). Crush was just .06 seconds off the state record set by Sacred Heart alum Asia Seidt in 2016.

Donan who finished second her first two years in the 100 breaststroke, capped off her career by winning the past two. She swam 1:01.61 to claim the honor this year over Notre Dame’s Lainy Kruger.

“I was really stressed about the freshman Kruger because she was very talented, but my club coach Mike Deboor told me right before ‘you’re going to win and don’t think anything else. Put on the blinders and go out and race’ and that helped my confidence so much,” Donan said.

Lenihan, Pape, Donan and Crush capped off the night with a strong finish to claim the 400-freestyle relay in 3.22.93. For Crush, Lenihan and Donan it meant gold for the third straight year. Assumption’s team of Molly Beavan, Deidra Runkle, Liesel Greseth and Welch touched in third.

“We are so close. Anabel’s actually my lane buddy on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Emily has been my roommate on many meet trips that we are really super, super close,” Donan said.  “I love them -they are just so great.”



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