The Sacred Heart swimmers had one thing in mind all season long. Make every swim count. Because sometimes you never know when your last race is your final try.
And when the girls reached a championship that once seemed more like a dream than reality, they seized the moment. The Spartans swept all 11 races of the CHSAA girls swimming championships at the Nassau Aquatic Center Sunday.
"I remember when we didn’t know if we’d have a season, how sad it was thinking that we didn’t know our last race was going to be our last race," senior Joan Cash said. "So we were just really excited and wanted to make the most of every opportunity we had."
Cash, Ariana Brattoli, Tess Howley and Cavan Gormsen each won two individual races and were members of two winning relay teams to lead Sacred Heart. In a challenging fall filled with unknowns, the swimmers remained hopeful their season would end as they wanted.
"Honestly, I had no idea [what to think] because you just never knew what was going to happen," Gormsen said. "It was filled with uncertainty. I’m more than thrilled that we were able to get to this point, but honestly, I had no idea."
Sophomore Gormsen set a pair of Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA records, winning the 200-yard freestyle in 1 minute, 46.18 seconds and 500 free in 4:40.75. Howley, also a sophomore, set a pair of league records in Saturday’s preliminary races and won both championships Sunday. Howley won the 100 butterfly in 52.69 after swimming 52.33 the day before and won the 100 backstroke in 54.73 after swimming 54.23 Saturday.
"It’s pretty cool having my name on the paper, I have to say," Howley said. "It’s my best time during this season, so I’m pretty happy with it."
Gormsen and Howley both said competing and training with a vast amount of talented swimmers help their performances.
"It’s so motivating," Gormsen said. "You look around and you see how motivated and determined everyone is to get better and it helps you develop that determination as well. We all feed off each other."
Cash won the 50 freestyle in 23.58 and 100 free in 51.63, and Brattoli won the 200 individual medley in 2:11.62 and 100 breaststroke in 1:08.17.
"I never thought that I would be winning my individuals here because everyone is swimming so fast and they are really good and it’s really special to me," Brattoli said. "It was great to win two races in my senior year."
And every swimmer is grateful just to have the chance at a season.
"We were really fortunate to get opportunities to race because not everybody got to race," Cash said. "So we really just tried to take advantage of those opportunities and give everything we had and race every race like it was our last because we know from back in March, you never know which race is going to be your last. So I think we really banded together and made the most of this season and had a great time."
Girls swimming CHSAA championships at Nassau Aquatic Center
200-yard medley relay: Sacred Heart (Howley, Brattoli, Cash, Dean) 1:46.73, St. Anthony’s (Rutigliano, Pompay, Glaser, Johannsen) 1:56.48, St. John the Baptist (Stroub, Bowers, Okodogbe, Johannesen) 1:57.95; 200 free: Gormsen, SH, 1:46.18, Pearce, SH, 1:55.53, Konop, SH, 1:56.42; 200 IM: Brattoli, SH, 2:11.62, Patalano, SH, 2:13.57, Zunich, SH, 2:14.15; 50 free: Cash, SH, 23.58, Dean, SH, 24.84, Okodogbe, SJB, 25.15; 100 fly: Howley, SH, 52.69, Okodogbe, SJB, 57.47, Patalano, SH, 1:00.52; 100 free: Cash, SH, 51.63, Dean, SH, 55.22, Smerechniak, SA, 57.38; 500 free: Gormsen, SH, 4:40.75, Pearce, SH, 5:06.45, Baldwin, SH, 5:12.26; 200 free relay: SH (Dean, Brattoli, Pearce, Gormsen) 1:40.74, SA (Johannsen, Bakke, Smerechniak, Contreras) 1:45.97, SJB (Okodogbe, Bowers, O’Malley, Johannesen) 1:51.22; 100 back: Howley, SH, 54.73, Stroub, SJB, 1:01.96, Pompeii, SA, 1:01.96; 100 breast: Brattoli, SH, 1:08.17, Darcy, Kellenberg, 1:09.52, Walsh, SH, 1:11.78; 400 free relay: SH (Howley, Konop, Gormsen, Cash) 3:33.74, SA (Pompay, Smerechniak, Glaser, Rutigliano) 3:54.07, Kel (Zwart, Mattone, Paggi, Darcy) 4:02.86. Team: Sacred Heart 939, St. Anthony’s 758.5, St. John the Baptist 472.5.