With numerous personal-record performances, a top-five individual finish and a school-record in one event, the Sacred Heart swimming team got pretty much what it wanted out of its appearance at the NEPSAC Division I Girls Swimming Championships last weekend.
Tigers coach Brendan Heller certainly liked what he saw from his squad during the meet, and entire season.
“Starting from our first practice on Nov. 13, we made great progress,” said Heller, whose squad placed 11th at the New England championships.“We had 16 kids and six were brand new to our team, they didn’t really swim competitively before. So to have 16 qualifiers for the Division I New England championships was awesome.”
Diving was one of the Tigers’ top events at the New England finals. Eighth-grader Annie Bingle finished second with a score of 428.15 points on the 1-meter diving board at the New England meet, giving her squad 17 points. Sydney Bluestein of Deerfield Academy won the New England diving title with a score of 434.35, while Ashlyn Wahl of Greenwich Academy placed third (416.10).
“Annie has a great future ahead of her as an eighth-grader,” Heller said. “It came down to the last dive for first place. We had the second-highest point total as a team for diving at the New England championships.”
Sophomore Piper Van Wagenen placed eighth overall for Sacred Heart in the New England diving finals, posting a score 356.80. Celia Daigle, also a Sacred Heart sophomore, finished 16th on the 1-meter board (296.55).
In the 50-yard freestyle, senior co-captain Kalyna Carroll qualified for the finals, placing 12th in 25.25 seconds.
“To see her do that in her last meet was beautiful to watch,” Heller said. “As a team captain, she loved the swimming team more than anything. She was the ultimate team player and it was great to see that all the hard work she put in paid off.”
Carroll will continue her swimming career at St. Lawrence University while senior Caleigh Pope, the team’s other senior captain, will swim at Middlebury College.
Pope led off Sacred Heart’s 200-yard freestyle relay team, which placed ninth in the New England finals in 1:41.48. Pope, junior Emma O’Connor, freshman Grace Lillis and Carroll swam a school-record time in the 200 freestyle relay.
“To see Pope make the school-record board as a senior was awesome,” Heller said. “She played a significant role in that relay.”
O’Connor took 11th in the 100 backstroke in (1:00.16) and junior Erin Quigley was 15th in the 100 breaststroke (1:12.81) for the Tigers.
“Our goal each year is to get as many people into the top 16 for the finals at the New England Championships,” Heller said.
Prior to the New England competition, the Tigers had a third-place finish in the team standings at the Bud Erich Tournament, which was also served as the FAA Championships.
“That was a good performance, we had 48 out of 56 personal-best times at the Bud Erich meet, which really showed how much everyone improved,” said Heller, whose team produced a regular-season record of 8-7.
And with a strong nucleus returning from this winter’s squad, next season should be one of greater improvement for Sacred Heart.