Since this year’s senior class of Scarsdale swimmers and diver joined the team as freshmen, they have been the heart and soul of the team, keeping the Raiders competitive within Section 1 and New York State. Danielle Eforo, Joy Jiang, Julia Kushnick, Megan Lee, Helena Leroy, Anya Pabby and Maddie Seltzer will have nine meets and sectionals to celebrate their final season.
“This is a special group,” coach Barney Foltman said. “Between the diver and swimmers I have these seven kids that are very high quality in Section 1. This was going to be a big year for us, not necessarily winning the section — I think we would have been in the top five — but certainly at the state meet these kids really would have had an impact.”
Jiang won two more Section 1 titles in 2019 and was top seven in the Federation and Seltzer was third in the state in diving.
With returning depth, the Raiders opted to have their top four swimmers swim all three relays and one individual race each against North Rockland on the opening day of the season Tuesday, March 16. In the 107-72 win, Lee, Jiang, Eforo and Pabby won all three relays, and they won all of their individual events.
“I give them a lot of credit,” Foltman said. “A lot was taken from them over the course of the pandemic and we’re fortunate we can get in the water even in a modified way. The kids have been very positive, I’d even say courageous. In an effort to salvage their senior year they’ve really stepped up.”
Claire Kassabian had a big meet with wins in the 200 and 500 freestyle. Abigail Gurden won the 100 breaststroke.
“Abigail Gurden really stepped up and put in some good times,” Foltman said. “It looks like she certainly improved in the extended offseason. Then we had two newcomers, Serena Wu and Fiona Kantor. They hopped in the water and scored a lot of points for us. That’s very positive for the team.”
The Raiders got hit hard by graduation numberswise, losing 11, and are down to 24 swimmers from their normal 40, but they have quality over quantity. “Our numbers are not as big as they have been in the past, which this year is to our advantage because I can’t swim everybody,” Foltman said. “The older kids know the routine and they go out and give their best effort.”
Not only will the swimmers get in a solid regular season, but Seltzer will be able to dive five or six times after at White Plains High School following their meets.
“It’s a pretty full season, but we don’t have as much practice time as we normally would have,” Foltman said. “A lot of it is dryland, but we’re getting a season and the kids are stepping it up. Myself and my assistant coaches are excited for the season.”
Like the boys from the winter, the girls have switched from Westchester Community College to the YWCA in White Plains this season and they are adapting to less pool times and fewer lanes as pools in the area are stressed since not all are open, as is the case with WCC.
“It took a little bit more preparation, I kind of enjoyed it,” Foltman said. “It’s a nice pool and it’s got electronic timing. We finished the meet in like 49 minutes. I think we were super organized and everybody knew exactly what to do and where to go. We wanted to make sure we followed all the safety protocols and everything was in place. I did my homework prior to the season. I went to the pool, I talked to Inga [DeNunzio], the boys coach, about any problems we may encounter. Through due diligence we were able to have a really successful meet.”
They are also doing virtual meets, where teams compete in their home pool and the results are entered and available each night.
“It was definitely weird not swimming against somebody other than your teammates,” Foltman said. “I think once the girls start recognizing their times do matter and when they look at the score sheets, it might motivate them to put in faster swims.”
SHEDI also ready
The two-time defending Section 1 champion Sleepy Hollow/Hastings/Edgemont/Irvington girls swim team graduated key seniors Ava Franks, Theresa Milio, Katie Wang, Sophia Allan and Emma Guarnieri and returns with a very different team this year.
“When we looked around the first day I thought, ‘Who are all these people?’” coach Tobey Saracino said. “It’s wonderful because last year we had 38 and we have 36 this year after we lost a lot of kids to graduation, moving, not swimming because of COVID.”
In addition to getting used to all the COVID-19 conditions and protocols, plus the distractions they aren’t used to at the EF Marymount pool, the coaches are learning about their swimmers.
“We have a lot of kids just coming onto the team this year, a lot that have not swam competitively before, which is really fun because I would say that’s predominant right now,” Saracino said. “It does make it harder for practices because we have to social distance them in the pool, but we’ve figured out a program to make it happen. The kids are doing great with it. They’re really flexible.”
SHEDI returns key swimmers like Grace Brady, Caitlin Sims, Nicole Kopasz, Lauren Allan and Edgemont’s Kate Anderson, Anna Mello, Florence Millet, Natalie Peng, Manon Jadot, Kate Hoesterey and Shivani Weber. Allan recently moved from Edgemont to Irvington.
The team will again be a force within Section 1, but Saracino isn’t sure what the competition is like this year as all teams are facing challenging conditions.
“Truthfully I have no idea because I don’t know what’s out there,” Saracino said. “If Horace Greeley is full-tilt, possibly not. But I think we’re going to have a very good season. I don’t know if we’ll be as high as we hope, but that’s OK. We lost a lot of girls and this gives the younger girls the opportunity to take the spotlight.”
SHEDI is also dealing with time and pool constraints, but again making the most of it. Two of the three coaches went through it with the boys already, so they are adapting easier.
“With 36 girls and only four lanes to practice with we don’t have enough space,” Saracino said. “It’s really interesting how we’ve been maneuvering things to make it work. We’ve had to have girls do dryland while other girls are in the pool. We have multiple coaches going in multiple places. The girls that have swam before I will take them, while Stephanie [Schilling] and Clare [Carr] will break down strokes, turns and starts for the other girls. I think we’re doing a great job with the circumstances we’re given.”
In an 89-79 win over Ursuline on opening day Tuesday, SHEDI won all three relays and got individual wins from Anderson (two), Allan and Peng.
“Kate Anderson stepped up,” Saracino said. “She couldn’t wait to prove herself. It’s awesome giving them the opportunity to step up and take ownership of the team. It’s a lot of fun to watch. We have a lot of girls who are swimming fast who don’t swim competitively. Lauren Allen and Jordie Klein did an excellent job. They did very well the first meet.”
As the season goes on and everyone gets used to the process, the team will begin to get more comfortable in the water.
“I think that hopefully we can keep all these kids because with a full season there would be dramatic changes with times,” Saracino said. “There are girls who haven’t swam competitively, but have a lot of talent and could definitely drop a lot of time. Can they do it in three or four weeks? That’s asking a lot and I’m not putting out that expectation. That’s a lot to ask as a coach to put them under that much pressure when we know this is an asterisk year.”
SHEDI will only have six meets due to the vacation week, so the coaches scheduled a lot of tri-meets.
“Our goal is to have a fun season,” Saracino said. “It’s a whole different set of personalities and it’s a lot of fun personalities that I think are going to work really well together. I’m excited to see how this translates into meets, especially next week with three meets.”