The Sleepy Hollow/Hastings/Edgemont/Irvington girls swim and dive team’s season was nearly perfect. Other than being a couple of absent swimmers shy of an undefeated regular season and taking runner-up in New York State among public schools by three points… ah, forget it — League 1 and Section 1 champion SHEDI had a perfect season.
“We lost first by three points, but we got second for the first time ever,” co-coach Tobey Saracino said. “Yes, who wouldn’t be disappointed by losing by three points, but who wouldn’t be thrilled with second?”
Perhaps the team’s two most perfect moments came at the New York State finals at Ithaca College on Saturday. First, Mikayla Klein won the NYSPHSAA Senior Scholarship Award, and later on SHEDI, featuring lone state-qualifying senior Klein, won the state title in the 200 freestyle relay.
Being announced as the scholarship winner was emotional for Klein and Saracino. “I was really shocked,” Klein said. “There were a lot of girls there committed to top schools and Ivies and I haven’t announced my college choice yet, so I was really surprised.”
Once she heard, “17 APs,” Saracino turned to Klein, who sat stunned. Once the GPA was read, it was clinched that Klein was the honoree.
“I started off the meet with Mikayla getting the award and me crying,” Saracino said. “It was awesome. I was just so happy for her. It’s such a huge accomplishment doing that and swimming in the framework with which she swims. She’s a remarkable kid.”
Klein wasn’t fazed once it was time to swim. She is a four-time state competitor, so she handled the situation with ease.
“Thankfully she had so much experience being at a state meet so with that she knows what to expect,” Saracino said. “She knows when to warm up, when to warm down. She knows exactly how to manage the meet and she did a phenomenal job with that.”
In the water, the excitement continued.
Edgemont junior Theresa Milio fought her way to the touchpad to clinch a no-doubt state championship for the team’s 200 freestyle relay. Irvington junior Ava Franks, Edgemont freshman Kate Hoesterey and Klein preceded anchor Milio in the relay, which won in an All-America Consideration time of 1:35.56.
“It was definitely a lot of hard work, not only from myself, but everyone else on the relay,” Klein said. “You need four strong legs. There was no weak link to our relays. That was definitely the key. You have to push everyone. We needed to all do well. We couldn’t have one person not do well, otherwise we would not have been able to win.”
Milio had the magic moment of being in the water for the finale. As the season wore on, Milio knew SHEDI’s relays were going to do well. “At sectionals we realized we had a shot at winning it,” Milio said. “I wouldn’t have expected this at the beginning of the season. It was really exciting today. We won by a second and a half, so I was just trying to finish as fast as we could.”
Runner-up Bethlehem of Section 2 finished in 1:37.08.
“Just how much we won it by was shocking,” Saracino said. “It was so cool to see that these kids could swim that fast and just say, ‘If you want this, you’re going to have to work real hard because we want it more.’ It was just a thrill to watch.”
While the scholarship was appreciated, the state championship was the highlight for Klein.
“That was definitely the best part of the meet,” she said of seeing Milio touch first. “It’s my last year, so it was my last chance to become a state champion. I was just hopeful going in and when she touched it was so exciting that we won.”
SHEDI’s two other relay teams fared well, too. The all-Edgemont 200 medley relay took third in an AAC time of 1:46.23 behind Klein (backstroke), Milio (breaststroke), freshman Elke Ott (butterfly) and junior Katie Wang (freestyle), while Wang, Edgemont junior Sophia Allan, Franks and Hoesterey were fourth in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:34.47.
Wang served two extremes for the first race of the meet and the final race. In the 200 medley relay she was the anchor, while in the 400 freestyle relay she was the lead leg.
“It was really exciting, a really cool experience to go to states and place so high,” Wang said. “The people in the relays with me I think helped me swim faster.”
As the anchor, Saracino said, “She’s in a spot where she’s fighting for dear life and just trying to get to the wall. That is the toughest thing because every single team is coming for you on that last leg. She stood up to the pressure both days and brought it home. She did a fantastic job.”
Leading off was a totally different mindset in the 400. “When you’re going second, third or fourth you’re going off a relay start, so you’re really moving,” Saracino said. “It’s a lot easier to post faster times. From a flat start it’s very difficult to get that time you’re shooting for. But she nailed it. Absolutely nailed it.”
The coaches didn’t put together an all-Edgemont relay on purpose, but Saracino admitted it was special for her as a physical education teacher and coach from the school.
“For me it’s unique because it’s the first time I’ve had an all-Edgemont relay get this far,” she said. “To get third was rewarding as a coach to see that come together.”
The first day of competition with preliminaries was solid, but the finals were simply better thanks to some adjustments.
“We had some very promising swims in trials,” Saracino said. “There were a few areas we hit on where we talked to a couple of the girls where we could be a little bit faster, how we could tweak things to really give our best effort in all of the races. I have to say the shock of the trials was Theresa going a 27.8 for a 50 breaststroke of the 200 medley. That is like amazing.”
Coaches Tobey Saracino, Clare Carr and Stephanie Schilling have been a strong unit since joining forces a few years ago, with Saracino being the veteran of the staff.
“It’s really interesting to get three different perspectives on all the races,” Klein said. “They’re really encouraging and they know how to get us excited and calm before the big races. They’re making sure we work hard and come to practice. It’s been nice.”
In the end, four schools became one. “They put in a really good team effort,” Saracino said. “That’s what I love about SHEDI. It’s not Edgemont, Sleepy Hollow, Hastings and Irvington — it’s SHEDI. We have one team no matter what high school they go to.”
Breaking things down
SHEDI may be one team, but Edgemont certainly provided much of the firepower this season, especially with residents Hoesterey and Ott coming into the district from private schools, though they did lose key diver Meera Kasturi in the opposite direction. In addition, Franks transferring from Horace Greeley to Irvington was another major upgrade, as was Milio returning to the team after taking sophomore year off.
“I really don’t think about the different schools — I think of it as just SHEDI,” Klein said.” But to see everyone coming out of Edgemont is really exciting. It’s definitely a lot of school spirit to see everyone walking the halls and to know we went to states and won a state race together is exciting.”
Klein ended her six-year SHEDI career that went from a competitive program to one of the best around.
When Klein was a seventh-grader, the team was 8-2. Klein was named Most Improved and saw Edgemont’s Claudia Casale and Nadia Riverso earn trips to states. The next year, with the same record, Klein was named All-League and Riverso and Milio made states. As a freshman, SHEDI was 6-1 and Klein was again named All-League and Most Improved, joining Riverso and Milio at states.
Sophomore year the team won the league meet and was 7-0. Klein and Milio were co-MVPs, going to states with diver Kasturi. Last fall, SHEDI was 6-2-1. Klein was the MVP and Wang and Allan made states with Kasturi and Klein.
Senior year Klein was part of an 8-1 team that won leagues and sections and had two Section 1 championship relays, the 200 medley relay in a meet record time of 1:46.7 with Milio, Ott and Wang, and the 200 freestyle relay with Franks, Milio and Hoesterey. Edgemont sent a record six to states and Klein and Milio were again co-MVPs.
“I don’t think I could have asked for a better ending,” Klein said. “Going into seventh grade I never would have thought I would be winning the relay at the end of my senior year.”
Milio is a four-time qualifier, but two of those years were as a middle schooler, a time when Saracino doesn’t put pressure on swimmers. They’re there for the experience so when they get to high school they can step up the way Milio did this time around.
“It sets them up for the future,” Saracino said. “We are loaded with juniors this year, so we’re going to lose a lot of people after next year. I think we’re going to have a really good season again next year. I don’t know if it will rival this year, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Milio made the finals in both of her individual events, the 100 breaststroke and the 50 freestyle. She was third and eighth, respectively.
“I was pretty happy with them,” Milio said. “The 50 free I was kind of surprised I made the A final because it’s not one of my best events. I was just excited about that. I went faster yesterday than today, but this was my second fastest time ever, so I was happy with that. Breaststroke I was happy I came in top three. That’s what I was trying to do.”
Milio leaves this season with a great spark to head into her own senior year.
“We were really close to first,” she said “That was exciting because in past years we haven’t even placed high at sectionals, so the fact that we were close to winning states was so cool.
“I’m excited for next year now and to see what we can do. Having been on the team for a while it’s been exciting to see how much better we’ve gotten.”
This was junior Wang’s second year with the team. Though she’s glad she joined sophomore year, she regrets not joining when she could have as a seventh-grader.
“In the two years I’ve gotten really close with my teammates,” she said. “At school you see them in the hallways and it’s across all the different grades. It really brings the grades together and you’re friends with people who love something you also love to do. It’s just a really good bonding experience.”
Wang didn’t make individual state cuts in the 50 and 100 freestyle, but she was close. Making states in those events is her focus for senior year. She’s hit the cut times in club swimming, but not in any of her high school opportunities this fall. Individually she struggled this season.
“It is really frustrating,” Wang said. “It causes a lot of negative thoughts about your swimming. It certainly made me doubt myself a lot this season, which Tobey thought I had the worst negative outlook this year, but I think I was in my head a lot and that’s a really big part of swimming. You have to believe in yourself. If you don’t it’s hard to push through the pain when you’re racing.”
Wang will be a captain next fall and her goal is to keep SHEDI as one of the best in the section and state. She said it helps being in Section 1, which features some of the state’s top swimmers, so the girls are always prepared for the next level.
Wang is also looking forward and appreciated Klein’s impact as a captain and swimmer.
“Losing Mikayla is going to be hard, but we are going to try as hard as we can to be even better next year,” Wang said. “It depends if we get anybody new, but we have Kate and Ava, all these fast people who are going to be on the team. We have to try to fill the shoes of Mikayla and that way we can keep having fast relays.”
Allan, another strong junior, returned to states and was re-energized by the scope of the meet, the performances and the potential for next year.
“I’m hoping Katie Wang and Sophia see this as an opportunity to go back, really get in shape for next season and come in strong and make their cuts,” Saracino said. “I told them I want them to be four-event swimmers next year. I don’t think they realize their true potential. Both of them are so talented. Hopefully these results will help them see.”
Freshmen Hoesterey and Ott made their state debut and helped SHEDI make quite a splash.
“Katie is such a unique athlete because she is so quietly confident in herself when it comes to her swimming,” Saracino said. “She will tell me exactly what she’s going to do and she will call me out and tell me if my goals for her are too low. I love that about her. What she did this meet as a freshman, I can’t wait to see her as a senior. She’s going to be smoking fast.”
Saracino was likewise proud of Ott. “She really kicked it into gear,” Saracino said. “Unfortunately she didn’t make it back in the IM, but she made it back in the 100 fly. She is another ninth-grader who has a remarkable talent. Her senior year she’s going to be rolling.”
Junior Franks was a major player for SHEDI this season, as was individual state qualifier and sophomore Grace Brady, both of Irvington.
“Ava was like watching fireworks,” Saracino said. “She’s got such an immense amount of talent. Seeing her go a 23 off of a fresh start in a 200 free relay blew my mind. Then she came back and did a 51 in her split in the 400 free relays. That to me blows my mind. That’s fast swimming. She had a very fast IM and a very fast breaststroke. I think in her mind she wanted to go a little bit faster, but that girl is tremendous.”
While SHEDI was sad to see the season end, the result was better than anything they could have imagined.
“We reached so many goals, so many of my coaching goals, so many of their swimming goals,” Saracino said. “I look back and say, ‘How do we improve on that? What do we do next year?’ Mikayla is an amazing asset to our team. Where do we go from here? There are a few ideas I have, but until I see who is on my team and have our first meet I really don’t know where we’re going to be. I think I’m going to sit back and enjoy this for a little bit, just hope these girls really appreciate what they have accomplished because it’s just so incredible.”
SHEDI Girls Swim & Dive
NEW YORK STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
PUBLIC SCHOOLS RUNNER-UP
Nov. 16-17 at Ithaca
Public schools team scoring: 1) Pittsford 222; 2) SHEDI 219; 3) Bethlehem 135.5. 200 medley relay: 3) Mikayla Klein, Theresa Milio, Elke Ott 1:46.23 (AAC). 200 freestyle: 54) Grace Brady 1:59.24. 200 individual medley: 6) Ava Franks 2:06.73; 40) Ott 2:13.85. 50 freestyle: 8) Milio 24.05 (23.88 prelims); 26) Kate Hoesterey 24.76 (24.52 prelims). 100 butterfly: 10) Klein 57.76; 23) Ott 58.70; 53) Sophia Allan 59.92. 100 freestyle: 24) Hoesterey 52.57. 200 freestyle relay: 1) Franks, Hoesterey, Klein, Milio 1:35.56. 100 backstroke: 9) Klein 58.32 (58.05 prelims). 100 breaststroke: 3) Milio 1:03.86; 9) Franks 1:05.08 (1:04.22 prelims). 400 freestyle relay: 4) Wang, Allan, Hoesterey, Franks 3:34.47.
NYSPHSAA Senior Scholarship Award: Klein. All-Section: Franks, Milio, Klein, Hoesterey, Ott.