By Matthew Digiacomo
It had been a long three years of swimming for Mylinda Hartnett, and the Meadville senior did not want year No. 4 to be just as long.
With that in mind, the Bulldogs’ captain hit the pool like never before. She worked harder than she had since taking up the sport and joining the YMCA team several years ago. And that hard work paid off with two District 10 titles, a pair of berths at the state meet and The Meadville Tribune’s Swimmer of the Year honors.
“I’m excited,” said Hartnett. “I forgot (the paper) even picked players of the year.”
Hartnett’s determination to reach the state meet was almost her downfall. Several times during the season, Hartnett tried to push the envelope a bit too far. MASH head coach Pete Coppelli said he had to put a stop to it every now and then.
“Sometimes she worked so hard I had to tell her to ease off a bit,” said Coppelli. “That happened quite a few times this year. I had to tell her that we can’t (go that hard) all the time.”
Hartnett heeded her coaches advice, which also paid off.
Hartnett remembered growing up watching the Steiders and Sternbys and others reach the state meet. Her entire family had also been a part of swimming. Coppelli had nothing but praise for how the Hartnetts have supported the program from the YMCA level on up.
So when Coppelli told Hartnett to back off, she listened.
As a result, she was able to taper on time with everyone else. And at the District 10 meet, after just missing out on gold in the 200 medley relay, Hartnett took to the pool again for the 200 IM. What happened next is one for the books as Hartnett dropped her personal best by six seconds with a 2:16.66.
“I cannot think of another swim like that,” said Coppelli. “You do not expect to see huge chunks of time dropped like that. I was dumbfounded.”
Hartnett was pretty sure she knew where it came from.
“I give the credit to (coach) Coppelli,” said Hartnett. “He really planned our season out well this year. He does a great job of making sure we taper down for districts so we can have our best swim there.”
Hartnett was unable to repeat that performance at the state meet.
That said, she did not perform badly despite the competition. She swam a 2:21.38 in the 200 IM, which was the second best time of her career.
She also lowered her personal best in the 100 breaststroke. The senior swam a 1:09.18 at districts and followed that up with a 1:09.17 at states.
“(Mylinda) was a senior captain and focused on what was expected of her,” said Coppelli. “She did everything she needed to get herself ready for what she wanted to do. And she did it in a way that was inspiring to teammates. She took the time to encourage and be positive too.
“To see all that hard work pay off, that is the best part of coaching.”
Hartnett is still not sure what to do next.
After a couple more solid swims at the YMCA state meet — she placed third in the 200 IM and 10th in the 100 breast — the senior said she may return to run track for Meadville, which she hasn’t done since her freshman year. Hartnett, who is going to Gannon next fall for the physician’s assistant program, also said she may try out for the Golden Knights swim team as well.
“I haven’t talked to the coach yet,” said Hartnett. “But I am hoping to be a part of the team.”
Coppelli, for one, hopes to see it.
“I think she would be a tremendous asset to their program,” he said.