CONVENT STATION _ Cara Cannilla wanted to inform her teammates on the St. Elizabeth swim team exactly what was needed when the Panthers' meet against Roxbury headed into the final event.
Right before the 400 freestyle relay, Cannilla approached Mackenzie Collins, Maura Mullaney and Shannon Law-Clark and told them the outcome would be determined by this race. Cannilla had gotten her information from a very reliable source - coach Greg Yarnall.
"We had to take it to win the meet," Law-Clark said. "That got us pumped up. We were excited. We said 'Let's do it.'"
And, the Panthers did, clocking a 4:13.31 to prevail in the decisive relay and defeat the Gaels, 49-45, for their first victory of the 2012-13 season.
"It was a lot of pressure but I know I can trust the girls I'm swimming with," Law-Clark said. "If we all push it, we can do it."
Yarnall was giving some of his swimmers, including Collins and Mullaney, a bit of a rest due to the upcoming Holly Classic scheduled for Rutgers University this weekend. Collins didn't swim her specialty, which is freestyle, so she could save her energy for the big club meet. Mullaney didn't compete in the butterfly, her strongest event.
However, for the 400 freestyle relay, Yarnall called upon both of them.
"Many of the girls are looking toward the meet at Rutgers," Yarnall said. "It's a major club event and is important to them. This turned out to be an exciting ending."
It certainly was. Collins, a sophomore, swam the first leg. Mullaney, a junior, hit the water next. Then it was Law-Clark's turn. Cannilla, a junior, closed it out.
"I'm glad Coach Yarnall set the last relay up and we finished strong," said Law-Clark, a senior tri-captain.
Gaels coach Deb Burleigh took a different approach when it came to the 42-42 deadlock, opting to go deep into the ranks of her squad.
"We definitely tried to get girls who didn't swim other events in at the end," Burleigh said. "We didn't stack it with our strongest group. I'm very pleased with the swimmers we used. They held their own."
That meant both teams left the pool content.
St. Elizabeth, which graduated 12 seniors, was glad to grab a victory while the young Gaels got to see just how deep they are.
"This was a highly competitive meet for us," Burleigh said. "I was delighted to see our girls swim. We've got a solid group of five or so we can flip flop into any event and get results."
Burleigh lauded sophomore Stephanie Shulkowski for taking the 200 individual medley in 2:32.81 and the 500 freestyle in 6:11.69. Shulkowski also swam on two relay teams.
"It was certainly Stephanie's day," Burleigh said.
Another Roxbury swimmer who impressed Burleigh was Ponsee Ibrahim. A freshman, Ibrahim was third in the 500 freestyle and fourth in the 100 butterfly. She also swam on a third-place relay team.
"As a newcomer, Ponsee did well," Burleigh said. "We're young but will get better and better. The girls are focused and are shaving a lot off their times."
Besides Shulkowski, first-place finishers for the Gaels were Ashley Singewald (200 free) and Allie Brosco (100 backstroke).
For St. Elizabeth, Mullaney prevailed in the 50 freestyle, Collins took first in the 100 butterfly, Tracey Collins won the 100 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke.
Law-Clark noted that she lives in Roxbury and was competing against Torie Miller and Ashley Singewald, two girls she was on club teams with since fifth grade.
She believes the Panthers will grow and progress.
"We're rebuilding," she said. "I like the new girls' attitudes. They want to do better. They're listening. They're open to learning."
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