Cougar Swimming: Senior Meet

14 Chatham Seniors accomplish their final goals as they also celebrate the final home meet of the regular season.

Thursday, January 31st was another night for the books on the Chatham Swim Team, both in and out of the pool. Not only was it the last home meet of the regular season, but it was also the traditional Senior Meet. It was a night devoted to accomplishing any left-standing goals, infinite camaraderie, and of course a whole lot of fun. The meet was against Parsippany; a group of extremely sweet swimmers as well as Coach D’s old team, which was definitely fun for him. Both the Chatham Girls and Boys team won the meet with scores of 135/25 (girls) and 133/36 (boys). The records after this meet stand at 11-0 and 10-0-1 (boys tied against Mountain Lakes) which officially makes both teams Conference Champs!

Those numbers, however, were not the ones that concerned the team on this night. This meet was not about the wins or the losses as a team, but rather personal goals that were set by each individual. Our team is clearly strong in the pool, but I think it’s important to remember the sheer mass of our team. Girls and Boys combined, we have over 70 members, and not all of us could possibly be on the same skill level. Some of us swim on very intense club teams, while some of us swim simply to get in shape and keep exercising. Whatever the reason, we all contribute something different, and we all share an immense dedication to the team. At this meet incredible goals were reached, and I would like to mention some of those stories from people that you won’t normally find in the newspaper.

Jill LaMantia, a very good friend of mine, is a senior on the girl’s team, and she couldn’t be more dedicated if she tried. She works at the score table, goes to every single practice (optional ones included), and is a champion cheerer for her teammates. Jill set herself three goals during her freshman year. She wanted to, (1) swim in Lane 3, the fastest lane, (2) swim an individual event, and (3) break 30 seconds in her 50 Freestyle (2 laps). By this meet, Jill had accomplished, more than once, a lane 3 swim, and an individual. The only goal remaining was 29 seconds; her fastest time had been a 30.05 from sophomore year. It’s only natural that it would come down to the last meet of her senior year because everything that happens on this team honestly feels like a movie. But anyway, the 50 Freestyle individual came up and Jill couldn’t have been more nervous. Her motto today was “don’t breath.” Jill swam incredibly fast (taking two breaths the entire race) to receive a final time of 29.57; dropping her time by about half a second, which is HUGE! If the story ended there it would only be a good story, but this is a great story, so it continues. Jill went on to swim another 50 this meet, and instead of just doing the same thing again, Jill dropped even more time and broke 29 seconds, ending with a 28.81, for the season! We couldn’t be more proud of her, and I know she is very proud of herself.

Another good friend of mine, Olivia Ortolani, had set a goal to be awarded “swimmer of the meet” by either the coach or one of the captains once during her final swim season at Chatham. Of course it happened on the last meet of the season as well. The reason: Olivia dropped three whole seconds from her 100 Freestyle (4 laps), starting from a 1.07.23 and ending with a 1.04.78. On top of that, she had a pretty bad cold and was still able to push herself to the max! The list goes on and on:

- Maddie Clark, a sophomore on the team, dropped six seconds in her 500 Freestyle (20 laps), starting at 6 minutes and 50 seconds, and ending at 6 minutes 44 seconds.

- A new freshman, Abbie Irish, swam her second event of the whole season, and while she gets extremely nervous about events, she pushed through and swam really fast. She said she would have been happy with anything as long as she didn’t throw up.

- Another sophomore, Emily Visco, swam her first individual event this season in the 100 Backstroke. Her goal was to get third place and so she did!

- Danny Villars, a senior on the boys team, wanted to go under five minutes in the 500 Freestyle, not only did he break it, but he went under by 5 seconds, winning the race with a time of 4 minutes and 55 seconds.

If this doesn’t prove that there’s more to our team than winning, than I don’t know what does. We are a unit, and we are all supportive of one another no matter what the goal, and no matter who the person.

The last part of the night, for seniors at least, was truly bittersweet. We had our honorary ceremony, where our names were announced to the crowd, and our parents handed us roses with huge smiles. The final relays were filled with 10 senior girls, and 4 senior boys. The boys, who are also the captains and fellow Eagle scouts, swam and won as the “A” relay. Few people on this team are as close as those four, as they have grown up together in and out of school. I think Eddie Mostert said it best when he was telling me how hard it would be not only leaving the team but leaving high school in general: “My (future) best man is on this team.”

On the bus ride home, Coach D spoke to all 14 of us, exclaiming that no matter how far we go in this world (and we will go far), and no matter how far apart we end up, experiencing the world in our own separate ways, somehow, we will always find our way back to each other, and will forever have an unbreakable bond. He sent us all into tears as we hugged with mixtures of joy and sadness and realized just how many adventures we’ve had together, and just how many lay ahead, together and apart. It was a night that I’m sure many of us will remember for the rest of our lives. We cherish this team and thank everyone who has contributed to it, because you guys are the ones who have changed our lives.

I have to apologize for the lateness of this article, as I am slightly behind. Counties recently passed on Saturday, February 2nd, and that article is coming in the next few days. Both the girls and boys team did in fact win the County Tournament (not to spoil any surprises). Please stay tuned as we start the state tournament in the upcoming weeks! 

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