The numbers were down for one team and up for the other, but the regular-season records were impressive for both Hopewell Township entries in the Princeton Area Swimming & Diving Association this summer.
In Division II, Hopewell Valley Tennis & Swim Club finished 3-1 and in second place behind Ben Franklin. Hopewell Valley Golf Club won Division III with a 5-0 record and, by virtue of finishing first, will move up to Division II next year.
“That’s huge for us,” said former Hopewell Valley Central High swimmer Dori Auslander, Hopewell Golf’s head coach along with Tom Livecchi. “I started three years ago and we had about 30 kids, now we have 85 and we’ve filled all age groups, so it’s great. This was a great year for the kids, dropping time and working hard for what they wanted.”
“That will be great with them moving up,” added Hopewell T&S coach Carlyn Hubert. “The kids on both teams know each other, they’ll swim against each other next year being in the same division, and it will be a lot of fun.”
Auslander, who is assisted by Scott Higgins, swam for Hopewell Golf from ages 4 to 14 before swimming in high school. She was classmates with former HVCHS standout Ethan Hatke, who shockingly passed away of natural causes in January. Hatke was a Hopewell Golf assistant the previous two years.
“The kids were pretty encouraged by the fact they wanted to win and do well in honor of Ethan’s name,” Auslander said. “It was a great motivation for our kids. It was a great season. But it’s not necessarily like we need to win everything. We do like to have fun. That’s our philosophy — we should be having fun first because it’s a summer team. And it’s always good to swim well and have good times.”
Which is why the goals coming into the season were to have her swimmers learn their strokes, improve their technique, make new friends and just enjoy the experience. Anything else was a bonus.
“I never thought about going undefeated,” said Auslander, who currently attends Dickinson College but does not swim there. “It just was more about making sure the kids were working hard and making good friends. Ethan and I brought back some of the traditions of Hopewell Golf, and this year Tom, Scott and I felt it was important to keep those traditions and keep it fun.”
With so many contributors, Auslander did not want to just list some of the standouts.
“I don’t know if I want anybody to be any more or less,” she said. “I would just say the whole team did well. We had so many great kids and you need depth on a swim team. Although it’s an individual sport where you have to get your personal records, it’s still very team oriented. If you don’t have enough depth you can’t fill the relays.”
Hopewell Valley Tennis & Swim had a first-year coach in Hubert, who swam PASDA for Ewing’s Ravine team; and was a standout at Hunterdon Central and The College of New Jersey. She coached the Eastern Express club team for five years and was an assistant at the Lawrenceville School last winter.
“We had a little bit of a smaller team than the previous years, maybe around 80, but we had a much larger group stay to compete in the post-season (PASDA championships July 25-26),” Hubert said. “Overall the parents and swimmers have said it’s been a very positive experience and they’re impressed by the sportsmanship and friendship and camaraderie and the way the swimmers are encouraging each other; in addition to the improvement in the water.”
Going through the age groups, Hubert felt the 6-and-unders were led by Jack Kerr and Katie Yadamiec, and the 8-unders were paced by Grace Corveleyn, Clara Mayer, Brielle Sullivan, Nick Lautermilch and twin brothers Kyle and Tyler Yadamiec.
Moving into the middle age groups, she noted that Maddie Sarachman and AJ Yadamiec were key swimmers at 10-under, while Chris Sawicki and Izzy Cortina powered the 12-unders.
The teen groups are highlighted by Kate DeHaven, Owen Harrison and Mark Sarachman in the 14-unders. The 18-unders featured Grace Sawicki, Alex Raskin, Hailey Kenyon, Kate Genovesi and Tim Gronet swimming and helping out with some coaching. Katie Montanari and Nick Pietrinserno come to Whacky Wednesday training and help out with the younger swimmers, as do Chris Sawicki, Harrison, Sarachman and DeHaven.
“They were some standouts, but everyone contributed in their own way by doing their own positive things,” Hubert said. “Every swimmer wrote down one or two goals they had and they could be things like break a team record, or go a best time, or get a first in one of their races. Or it could be things like meet one new person every swim practice, or learn something new about someone every swim practice.”
Like Auslander, Hubert agrees the most important aspects to PASDA swimming go beyond wins and losses.
“There are swimmers on all different levels here,” she noted. “You do have swimmers that swim year round and compete in the winter as well. There are some just starting out, and we’ve had several who never swam at all. So applying some of the same goal-setting strategies and team-building activities is a lot of fun. It is about the training, but it’s also about if the kids are having fun and enjoying it. If that’s happening, there’s going to be improvement.”