East Catholic swimmers compete at divisional finals

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Fri., Nov. 18, 2011
East Catholic sophomore Kayla Horan (l) and Maggie Mills, a junior, swim a practice backstroke race after qualifying to compete in the state open tournament. Photos by Martha Marteney.
East Catholic sophomore Kayla Horan (l) and Maggie Mills, a junior, swim a practice backstroke race after qualifying to compete in the state open tournament. Photos by Martha Marteney.

The East Catholic High School girls’ swim team had an impressive 11 individual qualifiers in the state divisional finals, held on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at Wesleyan University. The team also competed in three relays.

“The girls worked really hard,” said coach Lynne Neff, who has been with the team for the past four years, during which time the team took first place in the S divisional finals from 2007 to 2009, and a very close second place in 2010. Although the 200-yard medley team of Kayla Horan, Kailey Demers, Krysta Taylor and Margaret Mills finished third at the divisional finals, only Demers will compete at the state opens, having finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke race.

“This has been a growth year for us,” said Neff, referring to the loss of 13 seniors who graduated last year. Those spots were filled by 19 freshmen, all experienced swimmers. “They’re a great bunch of kids - very easy to coach,” the coach added. Neff said she relied on the seniors to give direction to the underclassmen, setting the expectations in the pool as well as with the team members. “Mutual respect is a biggie for us,” she noted. “That takes us far.”

For a team without its own swimming pool, Neff said one of the biggest challenges is securing pool time. “This [practicing at Trinity] was a blessing this year,” she said.

Senior co-captain Heather Smith, of Ellington, and co-captain Isabel Monteleone, a senior from Mansfield, agreed that this has been a fun year with great team bonding, including integrating the 20 new freshman team members.

“We gained a lot of girls who had been swimming in the past,” noted Monteleone. Describing herself as a sprinter, Monteleone competed in the backstroke, 100-yard race and the medley. “This year, all of us really had to earn the win,” she said.

“I’ve been working more on endurance,” said Smith, who has begun swimming longer distances, such as the 200- and 500-yard races and the relays.

Freshman Kailey Demers, of Stafford, has been swimming competitively for nine years, and it has paid off. “I’ve actually been doing very well,” said Demers of her high ranking in the 100-yard breaststroke competition. She described being on the team as a new experience that has allowed her to enjoy the more fun side of the sport.

“We’ve been doing really well,” said sophomore Kayla Horan, of South Windsor, “considering the amount of talent we lost.” Horan competes in both the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard freestyle races. She noted that the state divisionals and open are more about individual results. “But ultimately, we’re all together,” she said about her team. “There’s no inter-team competition.”

“We swim because we love it, not just to win,” said junior Maggie Mills, of Glastonbury, when describing the team attitude this year. She said her qualifying race in the 100-yard breaststroke was her best time yet. “It’s a nice reward after a hard season,” she said.

Although none of the five divers qualified for the post-season competition, sophomores Katie Burke, of South Windsor, and Michaela O’Connor, of Manchester, agreed that they enjoy diving more than swimming because it is more exhilarating. “It’s cool to be known as a diver,” said Burke.

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