There are few athletic teams around the York-Adams League with as much tradition as the Dallastown swimming program.
Much of the credit for the Wildcats' success in the pool can be attributed to Rich Howley, the longtime coach responsible for leading his teams to more than 50 championships. Banners commemorating those titles hang proudly inside the Dallastown Aquatics Center.
The Wildcats have won both the boys’ and girls’ York-Adams Division I titles in each of the last nine seasons under Howley, with 25 boys’ and 25 girls’ division titles in total over his 30-plus years as coach.
Howley, however, won’t be adding any more titles to his illustrious resume, that includes a District 3 girls’ title. The veteran coach retired at the end of the 2016-17 school year.
While a changing of the guard from an institution, such as Howley, to any other coach is certain to have some bumps in the road, the Dallastown program figures to remain in good hands under the tutelage of Gina McHenry.
McHenry led the York College men’s and women’s teams for 19 seasons before stepping down five years ago. She has been involved in coaching with the Dallastown club program since then, making her a familiar face for many of the Wildcats swimmers.
“Rich is a legend here, but (the transition) has been good,” said McHenry, who was a high school coach for a school in Maryland before her long stint at York College. “Change at any level is difficult for everybody because there’s always that level (of the) unknown, but we just all go at it together, one day at a time, and so far it’s been positive.”
McHenry sees similarities: While the level of athlete and age ranges are different than those she dealt with at the college level, McHenry sees a lot of the same motivation and enthusiasm for the sport as she did at York. And for her, that’s a very encouraging sign.
“There’s a lot of similarity (between high school and college) and, for me, that’s comforting,” she said. “And I don’t have to worry about recruiting.”
McHenry’s experience at the college level figures to benefit to many of the swimmers at Dallastown. She knows what college coaches are looking for in recruits and believes she can assist in the process whenever needed.
“I can be very helpful with that,” she said. “It’s fun to see all of the kids plan for their futures. My theory on collegiate swimming has always been that there’s always a program out there for somebody if you really want to swim at any level.”
Brockway to lead boys' team: Some of McHenry’s swimmers are destined to swim at some of the higher levels of the collegiate ladder. That list includes Logan Brockway, who won gold in both the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke at the league meet, as well as Mark O’Rourke.
“Logan has been phenomenal in getting the team excited for this season,” McHenry said. “And his work ethic in the pool is just contagious. And Mark O’Rourke is super excited for the season to begin, and both he and Logan work well together to get everyone excited. And that excitement is becoming contagious on the boys’ side.”
While both Brockway and O’Rourke are seniors, McHenry pointed out sophomores Araby Marston and Kathryn Deitch as key members on the girls’ side.
“Araby is looking to come back and improve on the 100 breaststroke time that she had at counties last year,” McHenry said. “And Kathryn is looking to be a little more aggressive in terms of competing more at counties.”
McHenry’s first official dual meet will come Thursday, Dec. 14, when the Wildcats host West York.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.