CR swimmers hope to make a big splash at state meet

Caesar Rodney’s Alexander Harfeld. Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder

DOVER — Xander Harfeld didn’t exactly dive headfirst into his last year of high school swimming.

For a while, the Caesar Rodney High senior thought about not even coming out for the team this winter.

“Last year was a rough year for me,” said Harfeld. “I had a lot going on. But when I’m on the team, I’m on the team — I’m going to give it all I’ve got.”

But Harfeld did decide to swim this season — and he’s glad he did.

“One hundred percent,” he said. “I would have regretted that. I’ve accomplished so many things I never thought I would accomplish.”

A week ago, at the Henlopen Conference championships, Harfeld was named the boys’ Outstanding Swimmer after helping the Riders win the team title.
Now Harfeld wants to see if he can end his career on the podium at next week’s DIAA state championships.

Caesar Rodney’s Alexander Harfeld.

The preliminaries for the state meet are slated for Feb. 21 (boys) and 22 (girls) at the University of Delaware pool in Newark. The state finals are on Feb. 24.

CR coach Maureen VanOrman is excited about the possibilities for Harfeld and his teammates — especially in the 200 and 400-yard freestyle relays.

The Riders’ team of Harfeld, Nick Hartmann, Andrew Chen, Tommy Pomatto and Ethan Herring set conference meet records in both events last weekend.

“We have talent, we just don’t have the numbers that upstate schools have,” said VanOrman.

“For us, it’s never about winning the whole state title. It’s about how many of our kids can we get on a podium and get medals around their neck.

“When the boys broke the 400 record at conferences, every other coaches’ reaction was, ‘We can’t wait to watch them do it at states.’ … let them know that downstate’s here and we are in the game.”

VanOrman knew that Harfeld was on the fence about swimming at the start of this season.

“But I think even he started, early on, seeing the potential — not of him, but of the team,” she said. “And it seems to be where all of them are at. I think that’s why they’re doing what they’re doing.

“It’s no longer, ‘I’m racing my (individual) race and whatever they do (in the relays), they do.’ It’s ‘the four of us are racing together.’ They live and die together on all these relays.”

“There’s a totally different mood from the team,” said Harfeld. “It’s like a brotherhood. We’re not going to let each other down. It’s going to be a tight race and I think we’re going to be performing at our best.”

A year ago in the state finals, CR finished fourth in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Just fractions of a second separated second through fourth place.

The Riders’ record time of 3:20.74 last week was 11 seconds faster than what they clocked in the state finals in the event last February.

CR hasn’t had a swimmer win a state title since Aaron Green four years ago.

“My freshman year I saw Aaron Green do it and I’ve wanted to do it ever since,” said Harfeld. “We just know how close it is and we know what we have this year.”

Villabona eyes medal

Caesar Rodney’s AnaLucia Villabona

For CR’s girls, senior AnaLucia Villabona is a legitimate contender for a medal in the 100-yard breaststroke.

She placed sixth in the state in the event last winter.

But VanOrman said Villabona is a stronger swimmer this season — thanks to her training as a Rehoboth Beach lifeguard last summer.

“It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Villabona. “It showed me that my body can do a lot more than I think it can. I can push myself past. It was awesome.”

Villabona just remembers that her qualifying time in last year’s state meet was actually slightly faster than her time in the finals.

“I was upset about that,” she said. “I was thinking, if I had done my best, I would have done a lot better.”

Finishing her career on the podium would be pretty memorable for Villabona, too.

“Individually I think it is a lot harder for people from downstate to stick out,” she said. “Swimming up north is so focused on and so much better trained. It is one of my goals to at least podium to show that little Dover has a little more than you think.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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