Sea of Swimmers: School hosts Varsity Swimming Invitational

Emily Shi and Hannah Katzke

The Boys and Girls Varsity Swim teams hosted 16 teams from around New York City for the school’s Varsity Swimming Invitational, the largest, longest, and only weekend meet of the season, placing second and fifth place respectively.
The Lions excelled at the invitational meet despite it not affecting their standing in the Ivy School Preparatory League, Ari Salsberg (11) said. “It was good practice for us, competing against other schools that we normally don’t get to compete against.”
Going into the meet, the Lions didn’t have any particular expectations since many good schools outside of the meet were signed up to go, but the team exceeded their original goals, Eli Scher (11) said.
Even though the team didn’t place first in any of the events, they were usually able to win meets due to earning points for placing second, third, or fourth, Salsberg said.
Standout individual performances at the meet for the boys team included Eddie Jin (12), who placed third in the Boys 200 Yard IM, an event where one swims 50 yards of each stroke, and Boys 100 Yard Freestyle
Captain Donny Howard (12) achieved a personal record (PR time) after swimming the Boys 50 yard Freestyle in under 24 seconds for the first time.
For the girls team, Harmony Li (10), who placed fourth in the Girls 200 Yard Freestyle and Girls 500 Yard Freestyle and Emma Chan (9) placed fourth in the Girls 100 Yard Backstroke.
Since the school often puts their best sprinters into the 50 Yard Freestyle event, the result was especially exciting. “You’re kind of putting everything on the line in that one event, A 50 Free time is something that everyone knows about themselves and relate to no matter what event you might specialize in,” Scher said. “When Donny got his really great time we all understood what that meant for him.”
Salsberg achieved a PR time in both the 100 Yard Butterfly and 100 Yard Backstroke event, dropping two and four seconds respectively and placing 5th overall in both events, he said. Salsberg is on track to being a part of the “golden dozen,” or a name for the 12 fastest times at the school, for his butterfly stroke.
At each practice, the team splits up swimmers into lanes based on the events that they compete in order to target specific techniques for them to improve at meets. In addition, the boys and girls teams have been participating on dryland, training sessions in the Simon Family Fitness Center, once a week, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays respectively.
Sometimes for dual meets, the coaches will cater practice against specific schools and their swim strategies, but since this meet invited a lot more schools that the Lions don’t normally compete against, they focused on maintaining the technical rigor of their regular practices after coming back from the break, Scher said.
Many swimmers at the meet succeeded in swimming new events for the first time and dropping their times to receive PRs. In addition, multiple swimmers returned to swim with this meet after having suffered injuries.
Salsberg said that since members of the team swim thousands of yards each day, the rigorous training can take a physical toll on one’s body and joints. “Lucky for us, our coaches are very supportive of us and know how to balance pushing us to our limits while making sure we stay healthy,” he said. “But when injuries arise as they inevitably will, they work to tailor specific workouts so we can continue to swim and come back in better shape than when we got hurt.
For example, Jonathon Mong (11) came back after not being able to swim for a month and received PRs in the 50 Freestyle event.
Isha Krishnamurthy (9) particularly enjoyed the meet due to the support of the crowds, parents, and teammates, which multiplied since this meet welcomed 16 teams rather than two, the norm.
Due to the longer meet time and time between events, Ahaana Shrivastava (11) said that swimmers had more of an opportunity than usual to interact with other members of the team in less of a rushed manner. “We really just got a chance to talk to other people [that we wouldn’t normally talk to] and experienced more of a club team meet would be like as opposed to just a school dual meet.”
“I also think like having downtime with the team was really important just to bond and just chill out with everyone,” McKayla Widener (12) said. “So everyone had time to get in their game mentally”
Aquatics Director and Coach of the girls team Thatcher Woodley said that he considered the performance at the invitational one of the best of this year. Woodley partially attributes the success to the time to rest in between events, which helps prepare swimmers for their races, he said.
“With one other school, it’s kind of more intense and competitive because there’s really just one school to compete against,” Vincent Li (10) said. “But, if there’s a bunch of different schools, then it doesn’t really matter whether you do well against individual school because I think people just tend to see more about whether they personally did well or not.”
Since the meet was one of the longest some members of the team had ever been at, reaching around seven hours, it could have been difficult for everyone to maintain their energy the entire time, Shrivastava said.
However, the team was able to push through to support each other. “As a team, we want to be the loudest team on the deck and the most supportive team on the deck, and I think we really did that this week.”
Looking ahead towards the rest of the season, the Lions have two more dual meets against Hackley and Fieldston before the Ivy League and New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) champion events in a month.