RADNOR — Rob Kirkby had no idea what to expect.

At a Central League Championships that had been postponed due to weather, with wintry conditions wreaking havoc on a normally regimented training schedule, Kirkby had his concerns as to how his Conestoga girls team would perform Saturday.

They lasted all of one race.

"Because of weather and just being out of sync with weather and training, I had no expectation,' Kirkby said. "I had no idea what to expect. And when we set the school record in the medley relay, it set the tone for the whole day.'

The end product was five Central League meet records, including two in the relays, and coach completely blown away by what his stopwatch read time and again.

The record-breaking started immediately, with the team of Nikki Bookwalter, Amber Zimmerman, Abby Mack and Laura McClintick timing a 1:48.72 in the 200 medley relay, obliterating the old mark set by the 2006 Conestoga team by 3.5 seconds.

That swim had a noticeably positive effect on the team.

"It's a really good snowball effect,' Bookwalter said. "It just gets better and better as we go. ... Our medley relay, we were not expecting to go that fast. I didn't expect to go that fast in the 100 backstroke. So we're doing better than we expected.'

Amber Zimmerman followed with a win in the 200 freestyle, then doubled up by winning the 500 free in a meet-record time of 5:08.68. The record downed the standard held jointly by 1995 Conestoga grad Amy O'Donnell and current senior Kaitlin Benjamin, who tied the record in 2012.


The fact that she took it from a teammate and friend wasn't what made the record special to the junior Zimmerman, who struggled through a shoulder injury and illness late last season.

"I didn't even have the end of the season last year,' she said. "And so the distance events, I was kind of scared to come back. I didn't know if I could really do it. But coming back to my best times, it's nice to know I didn't lose anything.'

Meet records were also downed in the 100 fly by Mack (57.37 seconds to take fellow Pioneer Stephanie Shupe's 2007 mark) and Bookwalter in the 100 back (58.60 to down the record of Upper Darby's Beth Grube from 1996).

The Pioneers finished it off with a meet record in the 400 free relay, the team of Benjamin, Zimmerman, Grace Wydeven and Mack winning in 3:36.77 to displace the 2012 Conestoga team of, well, Benjamin, Wydeven, Zimmerman and Mack.

The success at Centrals, especially amidst the doubt caused by all the extenuating circumstances, means Kirkby and company can head to Districts in two weeks feeling confident.

"I think it sets us up great,' he said. "We had some great seed times going in. We qualified some other kids for districts that didn't already quality. I think the biggest thing is confidence that they can swim fast when needed.'