Late summer is when girl swimmers have usually taken some time off before getting back in the water for both high school and club swimming. With both club and high school in full swing now, finding that balance has been key.
“Usually now with club we’re having all of our championship meets and training harder,” Scarsdale senior and Wolverines swimmer Anya Pabby said. “When the swim season was in the fall it was sort of easier to manage because club was a little more toned down. Now it’s both seasons happening at the same time, so it’s kind of tough to manage. We’re doing it and it’s going pretty well.”
Pabby has been a club swimmer since she was 5 and said it’s what made her fall in love with the sport. It keeps her in shape year-round and ready to compete at all times.
“I definitely use what my club coach teaches me and how I’m taught to race in these meets,” she said. “That’s where I get my competitive edge. From high school it definitely brings back the fun for the sport. “Sometimes with club I forget why I started swimming and all the fun parts of it. I usually focus on dropping time or winning, and in addition to that [Scarsdale coach Barney] Foltman really emphasizes why swimming is fun.”
Junior Claire Kassabian swims for the Greenwich Dolphins, having switched over from Empire recently. Since the high school season is typically September and October for regular season and into November for sectionals and states — this year it’s March 8 to April 22 with no states — she likes having the rest of the year to swim, too.
“With COVID we don’t have as many meets for club and we don’t have as many practices for high school, so it’s actually nice because I get to have a lot of meets and swim fast here, and more practices at club,” Kassabian said. “It’s almost like it has switched for me.”
Scarsdale coach Barney Foltman said it’s not always easy to get the perfect balance as some club coaches are more demanding than others, but he also knows the success of a high school program often hinges on having strong swimmers trained year-round by club coaches.
“The reality is they get good practice time with their club teams, so as a competitive swim coach I would never tell them not to go to club because that’s why they’re performing so well for me because they use their club experience here,” he said. “It’s kind of one hand washes the other and it definitely helps us.”
The challenge now is that both teams are competing for the swimmers’ attention with packed schedules as there was no high school season in the fall and club teams were still limited in what they could do.
“Everyone is trying to squeeze everything in now,” Foltman said. “The girls are being pulled by their club teams and by our modified schedule. They might miss an event or two, but there’s nothing to suggest they are not committed to our program.”
While Foltman wanted to offer a competitive season, especially for his senior class, which has led the program for four years, he also wanted to give them that fun element they are always talking about.
“We’re all just having fun,” Kassabian said. “We just want to swim. It’s weird because it’s a different time of year and we have more meets each week, but it’s still high school swimming and it doesn’t feel too different.
“I have improved, which surprises me because there was a long break without swimming. That’s been nice and I’m just going to keep trying to improve for next year.”
The “team experience” is No. 1 on Pabby’s mind.
“We’re all here, we’re all cheering for each other,” she said. “It definitely is different because the other team is not here, but we’re supporting each other the same way. It’s still a fun experience. Even though this year has been pretty difficult, everyone is still thinking about swimming and still putting our best foot forward.”
The Raiders are always swimming well in virtual meets and are 5-2 with three meets left prior to postseason.
“Right now my fab four [Pabby, Joy Jiang, Danielle Eforo and Megan Lee] and [diver] Maddie [Seltzer] are in there pretty good with their cut times,” Foltman said. “We’ll see what happens. I’m going to kind of leave it up to them. It’s their senior year. If they want to go for three relays and an individual or two and two, we’ll see what they want.
“The three relays have worked out for us pretty well this year. We’ve scored a lot of points and I can get them in spots to score individually and then I have enough horsepower to score points.”
The next grouping includes senior Amy Hu, juniors Kassabian, Ilina Goyal, Kaitlyn Lee, Talia Levinson, Caitlyn Needham and Ariella Pevzner, sophomore Andrea Rodriguez and freshmen Serena Wu and Fiona Kantor.
“Some of them are new and they have a ways to go, but they certainly add some depth,” Foltman said. “The freshman have enjoyed it and they seem to be bonding and they like Coach [Kaitlin] Nolan and myself and Coach [John] Eforo. I think we’ll see them back next year.”
Until then, the Raiders are focused on the final weeks of the season.
“What we’ve been doing so far is pretty great,” Pabby said. “I’d say we want to get our relays better, but other than that things have been going really well. I think it’s harder to set goals this year with sectionals being virtual and us swimming here because it’s harder to see what other teams are doing. I’m just trying to swim my best and hope that’s enough.”