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Local Swim Teams Buoyant With Expectations

Caldwell, Mount St. Dominic and West Essex have high hopes for swim season.

While is hoping to win it all at the county and state swim team championships, both and high school coaches have high hopes for their swim teams as well. 

The teams have dived into their seasons—here's what to expect:

James Caldwell

Head Coach Steve Trivino was "pleasantly surprised at the big new crop of freshmen swimmers" on the girls team. While the boys team does not have depth, he said, what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality.

The girls team went into the season without last season's senior standouts Catherine Canavan and Lisa Housel. "They were the last links to our 2008 county championship team," Trivino commented.

However, with the additions of freshmen Rebecca Coughlin, Lauren D'Angelo and Addy Maykish, Trivino said a "weight has been taken off my shoulders as they have filled tough events." 

Not only are they competing in tough events, they are performing strongly. 

"Addy Maykish's time in the 500-free is one of the top five in the team's history.  Rebecca Coughlin is real strong in the 200 IM (Individual Medley) and Lauren D'Angelo has a solid butterfly," Trivino stated.

Along with freshman sprinter Jacqueline Mescia, sophomore Julia Housel and junior Cara Housel, Trivino is hoping to put a combination of swimmers together to qualify for the state finals in the freestyle relays.

Led by team senior captains Kelsey Caufield and Samantha Schilling, the girls team currently has a 4-0 record. However, they are facing some upcoming tough competition in defending county champions Millburn and runner up Mount St. Dominic.

"We are in a competitive league with good coaches. I am hoping to put a little scare in these teams when we face them," Trivino said.

With only 16 boys competing on the boys' team, Trivino said he has the shortest lineup ever but does have a quality team.

Led by senior captains Travis Aion and Jackson Salter, Trivino said the team usually takes first place in the majority of events. "It is the depth of swimmers, we need to fill the outside lanes," Trivino commented.

Trivino does have hope to develop this team. "We are taking ocean and pool swimmers and developing them. The potential is there," he commented.

The 200 medley relay team already has a qualifying state time. The lineup of swimmers has changed from last year when the relay team set a team record.  With backstroker Tom Machi graduating, sophomore Dave Burton has switched from butterfly to backstroke, Salter has taken over butterfly from breaststroke, Aion switched to breaststroke from freestyle, and sophomore Danny McCarthy replaced Aion at freestlye.

Individually, Aion should compete in breaststroke, while Salter can choose what event he wants to swim at state championships. Trivino is hopeful Burton will qualify as well.

Trivino credits the summer recreation swim team with feeding swimmers into the program. "We see families coming back. We are fortunate to have a strong parent organization and the swimmers are having fun," he commented.

Mount St. Dominic (MSD)

After losing by three points to Millburn in the county championship last year, Mount St. Dominic Head Coach Andrea Jordan said a team goal is to capture this championship.

With an incoming class of strong freshman and returning senior Lauren Buckworth, an Essex County swimmer of the year and a First-Team, All-State swimmer, as well as accomplished sprinters junior Megan Wucjiak and sophomore Abby Ortman, the MSD Lions should accomplish this goal.

"We have one solid swimmer in each event. We filled in spots in the breaststroke this year," Jordan commented.

In addition to the county championship, the Lions are hoping to win at states, when they lost to Mt. St. Mary's last year with a team score of 100-70. "St. Mary's graduated five seniors. They have no depth, which is good for me," Jordan quipped.

Jordan did say the final team match ups in the state non-public division have not been finalized, and the team might not face Mt. St. Mary at state championships.

Along with Buckworth, the team is co-captained by senior Ali Borrelli, who has been a team member on Lions winning relay teams and a strong presence in the 200 IM.

While last year the team qualified in both the 200 and 400 relay events as well as the medley relay, they were only able to field two relay teams due to team depth. With the addition of the incoming freshmen and a sophomore transfer student, that should not be a problem this year.

In addition to the relays, Buckworth will return to the state meets in the IM and butterfly, Wucjiak in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle, and Ortman in the 50 and 100 freestyle.


West Essex  

While the girls team currently has a 1-4 record, they faced some tough competition in meets against Millburn, MSD and Caldwell. 

"With Caldwell it was a close meet. We just did not have enough swimmers for the last events, and also got touched out of the second place finishes," commented Head Coach Jake Taylor.

Taylor added, "This is the story since I started coaching five years ago." Both the girls and boys team do fare better when they swim home meets in a four-lane pool. When they compete in a 6-lane pool, they have a harder time filling the outside lanes."

For the girls team, led by senior captains Emma Alscher and Melissa Blottman, Taylor believes he has a strong team. "This year it is getting everybody to be at the meet mentally, to block out whatever happens during the day," he commented.

Taylor is hopeful his medley relay team comprised of sophomore Megan Trewella in backstroke, sophomore Jackie Sollito in breaststroke, junior Ally Barth in Butterfly, and junior Valerie Panza in Freestyle will qualify for the state championships.

For the boys team, led by senior captains Mike Leonardis and James Lovey, training in the off season has paid off.  "They worked hard," Taylor stated.

He added swimmers that excelled only at freestyle sprints have mastered additional strokes.

While the team lost some strong swimmers who graduated, including Taylor's brother Tim Taylor, they have been helped by the addition of freshman Tim Barth and transfer student John Crowher.

Tim Taylor had dominated in both breaststroke and the 500 freestlye, but Crowher has taken over breastroke while Junior Chris Plunkett now swims the distance freestyle event.

As for Barth and Lovey, Taylor said both are "two competitive club swimmers.  Both can do any events, with Barth really good at backstroke. Lovey will pick up whatever event we need coverage in."

Since Lovey knows many of the swimmers on competing teams, he will strategize with Taylor on the optimum placement of swimmers with events. 

Taylor is hopeful with Barth and Lovey to have some relay teams in state championships.

Disclosure: The writer is the mother of James Caldwell High School girls swim team member Rebecca Coughlin.

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