ST. JOSEPH – When it comes to area swimming, the rivalry between the St. Joseph and Bridgman girls teams is always intense.
Friends become fierce foes, if only for a few minutes.
Thursday’s meet was no different as Bridgman emerged victorious over St. Joseph on Thursday in double- dual action. Bridgman beat the Bears 130-56 and Coldwater 133-53, while St. Joseph beat Coldwater 11670.
“It’s a great rivalry,” Bridgman coach Emily Nannfeldt said. “That makes it extra special for some of our girls. It’s a lot of fun; a lot of them swim on age-group teams together. Even though they’re cheering for their own team, they’re cheering for their friends on the other team, too.
“That’s what I love about swimming.”
“It’s local, there’s a lot of people here,” St. Joseph coach Janet Beemer said. “It’s a great cross-town rivalry and I think it brings out the best in everybody. The girls performed very well today; almost all of them had season-best times.”
The highlight race of the day was the 100-yard breaststroke, which saw Bridgman freshman Eden Gray beating out teammate Melanie Kibler and St. Joseph’s Sylvia Park with a time of 1:15.68.
Gray, Kibler, and Clark are teammates on the YMCA Dolphins team at the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor YMCA.
“That was my favorite race by far,” Nannfeldt said. “It was so close. It was fun for me to watch that.”
Cici Strickler won the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 26.73, edging out Bridgman’s Alicia Delgado by .21 seconds to earn the Bears’ lone first-place finish.
“That was a nice swim for her,” Beemer said. “It’s her favorite event. We also had a lot of good swims in the distance swims.”
Delgado earned firstplace finishes in both the 200-yard freestyle (2:04.51) and the 100-yard freestyle (57.26). Freshman Natalia Beran broke the six-minute mark in the 500-yard freestyle for the first time with a winning time of 5:59.72.
Bridgman and St. Joseph walked away from the meet happy with their results while also seeing room for improvement.
“We need more endurance,” Nannfeldt said. “Everybody had great first 50s on their 100s but that second 50 isn’t quite where we need it. That just comes with more and more practice.”
“We are working on building the team up,” Beemer said. “We’re working on getting them to buy into the program and they’re really coming along.”