NEW HAVEN — Patience can lead to wonderful rewards.
The North Haven girls swim team completed a three-year quest Wednesday night, capturing its first-ever Class M championship at Southern Connecticut’s Hutchinson Natatorium.
“The third time was the charm,” North Haven coach Martha Phelan said. “Congratulations to the fine field of participants. It’s been a three-year quest to get here. I’m so thrilled for these girls. It’s an awesome accomplishment.”
North Haven was the Class M runner-up the past two years. Daniel Hand took home the 2018 Class M plaque.
But Wednesday night North Haven flipped the script. North Haven amassed 622 points to edge Daniel Hand (599.5) for the elusive championship.
“We put a good effort out there. I’m so proud of my team,” said Daniel Hand coach Jen Lyman. “It’s a great competition we have with North Haven. It is a friendly rivalry. We push each other and celebrate each other’s success.”
Indeed. The loudest cheers when North Haven was officially announced as champs came from the Daniel Hand contingent. Coaches Lyman and Phelan have been close friends for decades.
In the end, the math side of North Haven’s victory was simple. The boost came last week at the Class M diving championship.
North Haven senior Ava Santacroce (2nd place, 27 points), sophomore Chandler Ceste-Martinez (8th place, 21 points) and senior Christina Stoeffler (11th place, 16 points) provided a 64-point cushion under the guidance of diving coach Bob Lewis.
Daniel Hand had no divers and therefore no points.
North Haven also received key contributions by winning both the 200-yard medley relay and 200-yard free relay.
Senior Angela Gambardella swam a leg on both relays. In addition, Gambardella won the 200 IM in a new Class M record time of 2:04.62. She also provided breathing room at the end by winning the 100 breaststroke in 1:02.27.
“As a senior after two runner-up team finishes, we wanted to go out with a bang this year,” said Gambardella, who will continue her swim career at UConn. “This Class M title was our No. 1 goal all season. We’re so happy to achieve it. Daniel Hand is such a tough and worthy competitor. I swam my best tonight for my team. The Class M record was a nice bonus.”
“Angela Gambardella has been a gift to our program,” Phelan said. “She’s the type of swimmer who doesn’t come along often. To succeed in the IM, relays and breaststroke is a unique combination. I will miss her so much. She’s a great teammate I’ve been priviledged to coach the last four years. She will have a great career at UConn.”
The other individual champion for North Haven was junior Madeline Bergin. She is Class M champion in both the 50 yard free (24.01) and 100 yard free (52.52).
Pacing the effort for Daniel Hand was senior Kayla Mendonca (1st 100 yard backstroke, 56.83; 2nd 100 butterfly), sophomore Abbigail Chemacki (won 500 free, 5:13.67) and the victorious 400 free relay.
Other individual Class M champions were Guilford senior Alexandra Mayo (200 free, 1:56.48) and Foran senior Jordan Macdonald (100 butterfly, 57.53).