For most of her swimming career, Erika Schraber described herself as a distance swimmer. But after a five medal haul at the Maccabiah Games in Israel – in distances that ranged from 50 meters to 1,500 – she may just have to call herself a “freestyler.”
Schraber set a meet record in winning the 1,500 freestyle, what she has long considered her signature event.
“I was pretty confident going but it was crazy close,” she said. “We were within a half-second of each other the whole time, which is pretty crazy for a 17-minute race. It was such a fun race.”
Schraber had been seeded third in the field behind a pair of Israeli swimmers, but she had outswam them in the 800-meter freestyle, so she was confident going into the race. She won with a time of 17:45.63.
Schraber was part of the bronze medal relay team in the 4×50 freestyle, and silver medalist in the 4×100 freestyle, 4×100 medley, and 4×100 mixed-gender freestyle relays. Schraber said she met several Israeli Olympians, and a bunch of Israeli kids – one of whom wanted her Team USA swim cap before swimming the distance race. She needed it for the race, obviously, and exchanged with Eden Goldenberg, the Israeli who finished .41 seconds behind Schraber.
“I didn’t know what the meet record was going in and I didn’t know I set it until they announced it,” she said. “It was 25 seconds faster than anything I’ve swam in that event. All around, it was a great meet. I had this kind of range until this meet.”
Charney helps U-18 baseball earn gold
Hopkins High School catcher Drew Charney had seven hits in 13 at-bats over five games as USA went undefeated to win gold.
“I was talking to my parents about how I’ve never been in an environment where everyone’s Jewish,” he said. “It’s gotten me out of my comfort zone. It was great to play with all these guys not just because they’re Jewish, but that fun to be around.”
Despite the team not coming together for the first time until the week before the games started, Charney said that chemistry amongst the players wasn’t an issue.
“You’d have thought we played together for a year,” he said. “I love the pitchers I got to catch.”
Like Schraber, Charney enjoyed the interactions with the kids who came to the games.
“The craziest moments after the game was all the little kids looking at us like superstars and wanting autographs,” he said. “I signed a kid’s forehead [after the gold medal game].”
Charney had been reluctant to go but was ultimately thrilled with the decision.
“As someone who was tentative about going, I would say I just made a ton of lifelong friends [while] playing really good baseball,” he said. “Everyone said the competition was harder than we expected. You can connect with Judaism and have the time of your life.”
Dahlin part of comeback for U-18 volleyball gold
After losing to Israel three sets to one earlier in the tournament, Edina’s Aliya Dahlin said the team had determined to bounce back in the gold medal match. And a bounce back required a comeback.
Trailing 2-1 in the best-of-five-set match, USA rallied winning the final two sets 25-20 and 15-13 to earn the gold medal.
“It was a really great game,” Dahlin said. “When we played the first time, it was only our second game and we were still figuring out things with the lineup, and how to play together. We started to trust each other as a team and it all came together. We really believed we could win. Then we did.”
Dahlin had the assist on the winning point, and as the setter, was often at the center of attention as the US team ran its offense. Dahlin also had an opportunity to serve the winning points of the match with the score 13-11. She served the team to match point, but Israel rallied to make it close.
“It was going through my head [that I could serve it out], but I was thinking mainly that I better not miss,” she said. Dahlin said the U-16 girls team was down 14-11 in the gold medal match before taking the last five points to win. “I was ready for anything.”
The celebrations afterward was a mix of joy, relief, and exhaustion.
“It was an intense moment of disbelief and relief,” she said. “It was a moment of awe: We did this, a team playing together for two weeks. And also considering we were starting to feel tired. Finally be able to let it all hit us, and feel all we had done that day.”
Dahlin said the experience was probably the best volleyball she’s ever played. She’ll be going to college in England next year and doesn’t know if this is the end of her volleyball career. But if it is, she said, “It’s not at all a bad way to end.”
Local hockey players take silver medals
Branson Appelman bounced back from a concussion in a blowout loss in the first game of the tournament against Canada to help Team USA’s U-18 boys hockey team win silver. The team went from losing 8-2 to the Canadians in the first game, to falling 5-4 in overtime.
“I felt our team battled,” Appelman said. “It was a tough first game. The second (against Canada, a 4-3 loss) was better. The third could’ve gone either way.”
Appelman made 58 saves in the second game against Canada. In the gold medal game, Canada scored a minute into the sudden death period.
“It came down to a lucky shot at the right time,” he said. “It wasn’t the greatest I’d given up, but that’s hockey and it happens. My hope is in three years to be back and play for another gold. It was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
In the women’s open division competition, Canada defeated the US in the gold medal game 6-2, where Inner Grove Heights native Drew Kuretsky was a defender on the team.
“The score is worse than the game actually was,” Kuretsky said. “We lost in 10 minutes of the first period. It was a 2-2 game after that, but that’s how hockey is.”
Despite the result not going her way, Kuretsky said the trip was amazing.
“It’s definitely a different look at Israel that I was used to from my BBYO trip,” she said. “Seeing Israel through the eyes of sports and Judaism was really cool.”
The experience of coming together as a team was also special, she said.
“There are 21 girls on the team and I have 21 new best friends that I will be lifetime friends with,” she said.
Fromstein’s Rugby 7s team takes silver
Ellie Fromstein, who started at Hopkins High School and then Penn State, was part of the women’s Rugby 7s silver-medal winning team. The team lost to Israel 22-7 in the gold medal match despite a 7-5 lead at halftime.
Goldstein a double track and field medalist
Eve Goldstein from nearby Somerset, Wis., won a gold medal in the shot put and bronze in the discus. Goldstein, who competes for the University of North Dakota, is a second-generation Maccabiah athlete; her father, Chad, medaled in the same two events in 1991.