"It's always great going against the No. 1 team in the state," said Cherry Hill West senior Katelyn Muscat, who won the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke. "We felt if we swam our best, it was possible for us to win the meet."
Heading into the final event, the 400 freestyle relay, the Lions trailed Westfield, 79-77, and needed first-place and third-place finishes to capture their first state title since 2006.
Although the quartet of Erin McBride, Lynn Juan, Jenna Zagoren, and Courtney Patterson set a school record with a time of 3 minutes, 35.42 seconds, Westfield, behind a strong anchor leg by Caroline Baldwin, hit the wall first in 3:33.37.
"Baldwin is such a strong swimmer, there wasn't much else we could do," said Patterson, who won the 200 and 500 freestyles. We swam our best times today, but it wasn't enough. It's disappointing, but we had a great season."
Trailing by 76-64, Cherry Hill West set the stage for the dramatic ending when Muscat, Maddy Koelsch, and Mickaelyn Cook went 1-2-3 in the 100 breaststroke, narrowing the difference to 79-77.
"We felt the breaststroke would be the key event for us," Muscat said. "We thought if we could sweep, it would put us in a position to win the meet heading into the final event."
Cherry Hill West first-year coach Jessica Semar echoed Muscat's assessment.
"On paper, we had us going 1-2-5 in the breaststroke," Semar said. "But we kept telling Mickaelyn that we wanted to sweep and that we were going after it. She responded with her personal best, got us third place, and put us back into the meet."
Haddonfield (14-3) started its meet taking first and third in the 200 medley relay for a quick 10-4 lead.
Chatham (17-0) responded with a sweep in the 200 freestyle, but the Bulldogs bounced back with Emily Rollo, Alex Lincoln, and Jessie Cashman going 1-2-5 in the 200 IM for a 24-22 lead.
With the score tied, 31-31, after the 50 freestyle, Chatham asserted itself and took control.
"In the first half of the meet, everything was working for us," Haddonfield coach Bob Querubin said. "After the 50 free, Chatham's depth and quality took over. The past two weeks have been tough mentally and physically for our girls, but they stepped up and gave awesome performances today. Laura DeFeo set a school record in the 50 free for the second time in a week with a [time of] 24.27, and she finished second. And our 200 free relay took second, but set a school record with a 1:40.88. There's not much more you can ask them to do."
Rollo, the only individual event winner for the Bulldogs, put the meet in perspective.
"We knew coming in we were a big underdog," she said. "Chatham is so good and so deep at every stroke. We came out and swam our best. We're not upset and there aren't any tears to shed. We left everything in the pool today. Every girl swam her best time today, and I couldn't be prouder."
200 medley relay: Westfield (Kathleen Bond, Loren Ball, Erika Daniel, Caroline Baldwin), 1 minute, 49.76 seconds.
200 freestyle: Courtney Patterson, CHW, 1:50.76.
200 IM: Katelyn Muscat, CHW, 2;12.55.
50 freestyle: Caroline Baldwin, W, 23.65.
100 butterfly: Kira Singhaus, CHW, 59.60.
100 freestyle: Sarah Cronin, W, 52.02.
500 freestyle: Courtney Patterson, CHW, 4:59.01.
200 freestyle relay: Westfield (Sarah Cronin, Lauren Schmeider, Ellie Reinhardt, Loren Ball), 1:40.11.
100 backstroke: Caroline Baldwin, W, 55.97.
100 breaststroke: Katelyn Muscat, CHW, 1:08.38.
400 freestyle relay: Westfield (Sarah Cronin, Ellie Reinhardt, Lauren Schmeider, Caroline Baldwin), 3:33.37.
200 medley relay: Haddonfield (Emily Rollo, Katie Kurtz, Laure DeFeo, Anne Nicoletti), 1:50.07.
200 freestyle: Regan Kology, C, 1:53.08.
200 IM: Emily Rollo, H, 2:14.19.
50 freestyle: Jessica Gorham, C, 24.25.
100 butterfly: Kara Miller-Radest, C, 58.11.
100 freestyle: Julia Harrigan, C, 54.31.
500 freestyle: Regan Kology, C, 5:04.20.
200 freestyle relay: Chatham (Regan Kology, Julia Harrigan, Taryn McLaughlin, Jessica Gorham), 1:39.36.
100 backstroke: Jessica Gorham, C, 59.60.
100 breaststroke: Anna Dexheimer, C, 1:09.12.
400 freestyle relay: Chatham (Julia Harrigan, Regan Kology, Taryn McLaughlin, Jessica Gorham), 3:39.40.