CR pair hope to make splash at states

Caesar Rodney swimmers Danielle Stewart and Nick Hartmann display their Outstanding Swimmer awards following last weekend’s Henlopen Conference championship meet at Sussex Academy. Delaware State News file photos

DOVER — Ever since he was a freshman, Nick Hartmann can remember watching other swimmers receive awards.

At the Henlopen Conference championships, an outstanding swimmer is named for both the boys’ and girls’ meets.

“I was like, I want to get that one day,” said Hartmann.

So it was a special moment for the Caesar Rodney High senior to hear his name called as the male Outstanding Swimmer at the Henlopen meet last Saturday.

“I was pretty happy,” said Hartmann. “It was really cool getting it.

“Conference is a milestone. Especially my senior year, I’m glad that I can look back and I was pretty satisfied with how I swam.”

Fellow CR swimmer Danielle Stewart knows how Hartmann feels. She heard her name called as the Outstanding Swimmer in the girls’ meet in the event held at Sussex Academy.

Unlike Hartmann, though, Stewart is only a sophomore.

“I was a bit surprised because they normally don’t give it to a sophomore,” she said.

Sweeping the two individual awards capped off a good year for CR’s swimming program, which also won the boys’ and girls’ team titles during the Henlopen Conference regular season.

At the same time, both swimmers also know they have a chance to accomplish something even more memorable at next week’s DIAA state meet.

A year ago, as only a freshman, Danielle Stewart made it on the podium twice in the state meet. She finished third in both the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle. It was a memorable day for the youngster in an event that upstate schools have traditionally dominated.

The girls’ state meet preliminaries are on Wednesday with the boys’ meet starting on Thursday. Both meets then conclude on Feb. 23 with the girls’ events beginning at 11 a.m. and the boys’ finals following at 6 p.m.

The entire state meet is held at the University of Delaware’s Carpenter Sports Building pool in Newark.

A year ago, as only a freshman, Stewart made it on the podium twice in the state meet. She finished third in both the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle.

It was a memorable day for the youngster in an event that upstate schools have traditionally dominated.

“I was honestly pretty proud of myself because I know there were people out there motivating me,” said Stewart, who’s been swimming since she was five. “Everyone was proud of me. … I loved it. It was a good experience.

“Just being on the state podium felt really good. I felt like it was a good moment for everyone in our conference as well — not just for Caesar Rodney but for everyone downstate.”

Stewart won both the 100-yard backstroke and 500 freestyle events at last week’s conference meet. Her time of 5:14 in the 500 freestyle broke her own meet record by six seconds — and she’s been clocked as low as 5:11.

She also swam on CR’s winning 400-yard freestyle relay with the May sisters, Victoria, Alex and Georgia.

In the state meet, Stewart is expected to swim the 200 and 500 freestyle. She said she really doesn’t spend much time looking at opponents’ times and trying to figure out where she fits in.

“I just go in, swim as hard as I can and come out with my best time,” she said. “I try to focus on what I’m doing — to get better no what others are doing.”

“The girl has a work ethic unlike anyone else,” said Riders coach William Wells. “She’s always in the pool — morning and after school.

“She’s just going to have to come out and compete that day (at the state meet). I think deep down inside of her she has that drive to do so. She’s going to compete no matter what and that’s all we can ask of her.”

Hartmann won both the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle while swimming a leg of CR’s fourth-place 200-yard freestyle relay at last week’s conference meet. His time of 48.55 seconds in the 100 was a personal best.

He also stepped up as a team captain this winter after CR graduated some top swimmers from last year’s squad.

“It’s been very cool to see Nick progress through his four years,” said Wells. “I don’t know if he had the same drive back then that Danielle had as a freshman to be the best that he could be. But that’s changed significantly since the beginning.

“We’ve seen a huge change since his junior year where he is leading the team. He’s mature beyond his years.”

As a senior, Hartmann is a veteran of the state meet.

With the team paired down to state qualifiers, Hartmann said there’s something different about the state meet. On the boys’ side, Salesianum will be expected to capture its 28th state team title in the sport.

A year ago in the state meet, the Riders placed fourth — tops among downstate teams. But they were also 205 points behind Sallies.

“People aren’t looking at CR and saying, ‘Oh, they’re going to win,’” said Hartmann. “At that point it’s more of a personal thing. It gets kind of nerve-wracking, but it’s fun.”

Notes

Cape Henlopen has won seven straight girls’ team titles in the Henlopen meet. … CR was also the top-finishing downstate girls’ squad in last year’s state meet. The Riders finished ninth. … Newark Charter is the defending girls’ team state champion. … Since the official DIAA state meet was started in 1986, Sallies has never finished lower than second in the boys’ team standings.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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