Wood's second-place PCL finish encourages Stillwell
Coach hopes more depth will mean title contention
By Lyle Fitzsimmons - Intelligencer Staff Writer - 3-11-98
PHILADELPHIA - Coach Charlie Stillwell and his Archbishop Wood girls swim team accomplished goal No. 1 Sunday afternoon. Next year, however, comes the big move. Third-place finishers in the Philadelphia Catholic League's regular season, the Vikings used seven event victories to leapfrog rival Archbishop Prendergast and earn a second-place team standing in the PCL girls championship meet at La Salle University's Hayman Hall. Sophomores Carol Crouthamel and Mary Skonicki won a pair of solo races apiece and junior Liz Niszczak added a single triumph for Wood, which finished with 496.5 points to Prendergast's 495 to earn a spot directly behind meet champion Cardinal O'Hara and its 669 points. The youth-laden Vikings were hurt by an overall lack of roster depth, though, a problem Stillwell hopes to solve en route to securing a league title to close his second season at the helm in 1999. "Our top kids are obviously very good; we just need a few more of the middle-type kids to fill in the gaps," he said. "What we need to do is bulk up the team a little bit and get some more of those kinds of kids in. "I'd say one more good kid and we'd win all of our dual meets, three more good kids and we win the league. We're that close. I think in the next year or two, we're right up there with them." The aforementioned trio of Crouthamel, Skonicki and Niszczak will return to the Wood fold next season, and Stillwell said he fully expects each of the girls to improve on the winning form she displayed this season. "Absolutely. I think they can drop down even further (time-wise) than what they're doing now," he said. "I think Mary next year goes under a minute in the backstroke and goes 54 or 53 (seconds) in the 100 free, easily. "Liz should definitely get under a minute next year in the (100) fly, and you know with Carol, it doesn't matter. She'll just keep dropping anyway." An assistant coach at Wood last season, Stillwell came into this year and attempted to change things up a bit for his swimmers this year by modifying the approach to practices and their day-to-day content. Instead of focusing just on routine distance swims and tapering down toward the close of the competitive year and into postseason, he instituted a pre-pool session that included time set aside for stretching, weightlifting and running, while changing the in-water activity to concentrate on improved technique and sprinting skills. Stillwell said that as long as the non-traditional regimen is successful, he'll stick with it. "The first hour was spent out of the water, so that gives us an hour and a half," he said. "I just ran real short, sprint, high-quality workouts every day that probably didn't go over 3,000 yards. When they worked, they worked really hard. "I read some articles on it and I liked that philosophy for the team we have and the way it's structured. Part of what I'm trying to incorporate in there is not to make the practices boring. "The kids have fun and it's not a pain in the butt to come every day. They want to come, and when they want to come and they want to swim well, they do well. I think it paid off this year in the way they performed."