Trio of teams set sights on Ward Melville swimming
Half Hollow Hills, Connetquot and Harborfields know the team to beat in Suffolk girls swimming year after year is Ward Melville, winner of the past 21 county titles.
As each team prepares for its respective league championship meet this week, Half Hollow Hills, Connetquot and Harborfields have put together quality seasons.
Half Hollow Hills (6-1) placed second in League I behind Ward Melville during the regular season, while Connetquot (5-2) and Harborfields (6-1) each took first in League II and League III, respectively.
"Overall, this was a great season," Half Hollow Hills coach Jason Wiedersum said. "We have 15 girls who have qualified for the county championship and I'm hopeful we will add more to that number at the league championship."
Hills' list includes sophomore Emily Altchiler, senior Kim Chan, junior Jennifer Gosule and freshman Kelly Lennon. All four qualified for six events in the county. Altchiler, Chan, Gosule and Lennon will swim the 200 freestyle, the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke at the county meet next week.
Altchiler also qualified for the 100 fly and the 100 and 500 freestyle. Chan has the 50 free, the 100 free and the 100 breaststroke to take care of, while Gosule will compete in the 100 fly, 100 free and 500 free. Lennon will also swim in the 50 free, 100 free and 500 free.
"Our goal is always to win a county title and that means beating Ward Melville," Wiedersum said. "However, we have several goals aside from that. We want representation at the state championships and we would love to have some team records go down."
The journey begins for Half Hollow Hills at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday during the League I Championship meet at Sachem North.
"One thing I do preach to the girls is sportsmanship," Widersum said. "We'd love to win a sportsmanship recognition, alongside a championship."
Coach Nicole Eiesland is hoping for the same for Connetquot, which is preparing for the League II Championship meet at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Deer Park.
“The girls have worked really hard all season," Eiesland said. "It means everything to them to be undefeated [in league]."
Tiffany Catano had a lot of say in Connetquot's 5-0 League II regular season. Catano, a senior who has been with the Thunderbirds since she was an eighth-grader, qualified for the county meet in the 100 backstroke (1:04.12). Catano will be joined by teammate Katherine Green, a junior, who will compete in the 50 free and the 100 fly during the county meet.
"Those are the two best that Katherine is swimming," said Alex Scichilone, Connetquot's assistant coach and Green's coach for the Connetquot Swim Club. "This year, she really has set goals for herself. You can see that during practice time. She pushes herself and has increased her intensity."
Scichilone said the Thunderbirds have a "great core of underclassmen" featuring Emma Kopp, Leah Russell and Michelle Wooton. All three are headed to the county meet, with Kopp swimming the 500 and 100 free, Russell the 200 free and the 100 breaststroke, and Wooton the 100 free (59.76).
Seniors Brianna McCoy and Grace Stanton have qualified for the state meet in the 100 fly and the 500 free, respectively. McCoy's top time was 1:07.20 and Stanton's best was a 5:47.12. Emma Breiner will join McCoy and Stanton when she swims the 100 breaststroke (1:18.41), which qualified her for the state meet.
"Our group of girls, especially our group of seniors, exhibited great leadership," Eiesland said. "They encouraged the team and organized fundraisers for cancer, specifically donating money to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for cancer research. They really stepped up.”
Harborfields will compete in the League III Championship meet beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 1 at Hauppauge.