By Olivia Almeida, Staff Writer, and Mary Kate Cashman, Editor-in-Chief
Despite battling some unexpected medical challenges this year, the swim team still managed to add more hardware to the school’s new trophy case. Led by head coach Alyssa Morreale, assistant coaches Allison Duffy and Katie Gillen, and senior captains Taryn McKeever and Gillian Thorp, 39 swimmers have trained since November in hopes of placing in the top five at the Shore Conference Championship and earning their fourth straight titles in the NJSIAA tournament and the NJISAA Prep State meet.
The swimmers achieved their first goal when they placed third in the Shore Conference meet on Feb. 2 at the Ocean County YMCA. Junior Katie Wright won the 200-yard individual medley and was joined by junior Maddie Condon, freshman Caroline Gulka and sophomore Jessica Zebrowski to win the 400-yard freestyle relay and place second in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Each of these swimmers earned additional top-six finishes to add depth to the team’s performance. Condon placed third in the 100-yard backstroke, Gulka placed sixth in both the 50-yard and the 100-yard freestyle, Wright placed second in the 500-yard freestyle and Zebrowski placed sixth in the 200-yard freestyle.
The team continued its championship run at the NJISAA “Prep” State Championships on Feb. 6 at The Lawrenceville School. The team trailed Pennington going into the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, but Condon, Gulka, Wright and Zebrowski finished first to overcome the deficit, helping the team win its fourth consecutive Prep B title by a point and a half.
Wright said that the race was one of the highlights of her season. “Winning this relay would win the meet,” she said. “We knew we needed to swim our hearts out. Once I saw my teammates cheering and some even running the side of the pool as I swam each lap I felt so supported and excited.”
Morreale was pleased with the team’s determination and enthusiasm. “Winning the Prep State championship was our biggest success this year because, on paper, we shouldn’t have won, but the girls truly pushed each other every race and found a way to bring home the trophy again this year,” she said.
Less than two weeks later, the team was back in the pool to defend its NJSIAA Non-Public B State Championship. With the top seed, the Monarchs earned a bye into the semifinal round on Feb. 18, where they beat Villa Walsh 108-62. On Feb. 24, the team won its fourth Non-Public B state title, beating Newark Academy 96-74. School records were set by Wright in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:02.86, and by Condon, Gulka, Wright and Zebrowski in the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:39.97.
“I was very happy with both of my times in each event considering I was not rested,” Wright said.
Thorp said she enjoyed leading the team because the swimmers balanced their hard work with having fun. “It has been a great experience to be on such a fun and successful team,” she said. “It’s really awesome to see how hard everyone on the team has worked to get us where we are now – including the girls who have already graduated.”
Though the season just ended, Morreale already has high hopes for next year. “Since we are only graduating two seniors and will hopefully have the rest of our team back at full strength next year in addition to newcomers, I’m confident we can continue the winning tradition of our swim program on the state level, and possibly place even higher in the county and conference championships as well.”