Rivalry swim meet is second to none
The Lehigh Valley is blessed with some big rivalries. There's the Lehigh/Lafayette and Muhlenberg/Moravian football games in college. And high school football has Easton/Phillipsburg, but for pure competiveness, tradition and fun, the rivalry between the Emmaus and Parkland swimming programs is something to witness. The event brings former students and their families back year-after-year even when they no longer have family members swimming in the meet, but that's just the beginning.
Perhaps the biggest tradition of the rivalry is the ceremonial dumping of the water. The visiting team fills a large jug with a couple gallons of water from their pool and prior to the meet, they dump it into the home team's pool. Of course, the event is played up into a full ceremony with fans chanting "pour it in, pour it in" and two senior swimmers this year, Joey Fasching and Josh Anderson did the honors holding the container of water high over the pool before dumping it in to the cheers of the visiting fans. So, when did the tradition start and what does it mean? Nobody is really quite sure, but the tradition continues.
"I have no idea," laughed Parkland coach Rob Robitaille. "Some of the traditions are really nice, but I'm afraid that with the era were heading into that some of the traditions are going to fade away, but I hope not. I have no idea where the pouring the water or the board banging came from, it was already here when I got here."
The Emmaus swimmers also have a tradition of taking kick boards and banging out a rhythmic beat as loud as they can on any hard surface they can find; a starting block, a wall, anything will do. This takes place right after the Emmaus pool has been dirtied by the water from the rivals home pool; perhaps it's to ward off the effects of the newly added water.
One recent change in the event has been the timing. For many years, the event was the final meet of the season for both teams and in most years, it decided the Lehigh Valley Conference Championship, providing the opportunity for instant bragging rights and showing off the league trophy in front of the vanquished opponents. Starting last season, Robitaille and Emmaus coach Tim O'Connor agreed that the meet should come earlier in the season. One of the key reasons for the change was so that alumni, who are home from college for Christmas, can attend the event and hopefully, relive a few memories, but the coaches see another advantage to the earlier meeting.
While Fasching loves the traditions and was proud to have played a role in this year's water dumping, he would be on the side of returning the meet to the season finale position that it held for many years.
"I think they're good traditions and they should definitely carry on. It's a good experience for the under classmen and everyone in general," said Fasching.
"I kind of liked it later in the season though, just because you had more time to prepare and you knew what was coming, so I personally liked it as the last meet instead of one of the first meets."