Emily Czelusniak is gaining a new appreciation for her swim coaches. The Ewing High School sophomore has been getting a taste for coaching with the Blue Devils swim team and growing more confident in how she can help boost it.
Czelusniak has been competing in the pool for more than half of her life, and swims for the Stingrays club team year-round on top of competing for EHS in the winter. For high school practices, she often acts like a coach to the less experienced swimmers.
“I did teach some lessons last year to younger kids,” Czelusniak said. “I tried to help out on my summer swim team too a little bit, but helping coach my friends here, it’s given me a lot more respect for my coaches. It’s tiring, but it’s great when you see them improve.”
“It’s really impressive to see them improve,” Czelusniak said.
She adds that there are some swimmers who have a hard time at the start of the season, but by the end of the year they can do 100s and 200s, and “it’s not a struggle and they do better every meet. It’s amazing to see them grow.”
Ewing has a team with a lot of new faces this year. The Blue Devils graduated a large class—about one-third of the team, but welcomed in a good number of freshmen and new swimmers.
“I’ve been telling the kids how excited we are for the team,” said Ewing head coach Erin Devlin. “We had about 20 last year and have 21 this year. The swimmers who we gained this year have been absolutely positive contributors to our team so far… We started the season focusing on technique and now we’re moving toward building endurance.”
The boys team consists of diver Andrew Ashton and swimmers Tuguldur Bayarerdene, Zachary Benedetti, Nicholas McFeeters, Michael Montagna, Luke Shoplock, Stanislaw Solowiej and Ryan Webster.
Devlin said that Montagna and Shoplock, who are returning from last year, have been strong competitors for the boys “Michael has become one of our most versatile swimmers. I can put him in anything and he’ll do it.
“Luke has been our top backstroker and freestyler. I think this is his fourth year. Ryan Webster, who’s a standout cross country and track athlete, is a senior this year. For the four years, he’s been a freestyler and breaststroker for our team.
She said that McFeeters, a freshman, comes to the team competitive swimmign experience. “He has a lot of potential to have a great season and to be an asset to the boys team. He also brings a lot of versatility. He swam the 200 IM, 100 fly and 100 breast. I can put him in anything.”
‘As a team, we want to just keep dropping time and improving their strokes. We’re trying new things and having fun. That’s really what it’s all about.’
The girls team includes: Anujin Ariunbold, Rylee Briggs, Lee Ann Cleckner, Emily Czelusniak, Elisa Davila, Meredys Diaz- Francis, Stephanie Frolio, Azzaya Galsandum, manager Noemi Garica, Aniya Glover, Emily Greshak, Gianna Griffiths, Natalie Kulpa, Cara Pemberton, Nora Penner and manager Valery Perez-Sierra. None of the girls swimmers are seniors.
“We are kind of young on the girls side,” Devlin said. “We have several juniors which will be a big hit in a couple years when they go. Seven of our girls—half of them—are juniors.”
Ewing’s thin numbers for boys will make it tough to fill every lane of every race. The boys opened with four difficult meets. In a 104-54 loss to Hamilton, Montagna won the 200 free and 100 butterfly, Shoplock won the 500 free and McFeeters took the 100 breaststroke.
The girls also fell in their first four meets, but not without impressing with their times. Czelusniak was the lone winner for the Blue Devils when she took the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke.
Czelusniak has grown more versatile in and out of the pool. Being a more vocal part of practices shows the way that she has changed since last year when she was a freshman in her first year of high school swimming.
“I think I’ve grown,” she said. “I was a little shyer last year. This year, I’ve come out of my shell a bit and helped at practices with technique. I help with all of the strokes.”
Czelusniak follows her older sister, Olivia, who starred for Ewing and now is a sophomore swimming for Skidmore College.
“I did get in because of her,” said Czelusniak, who would like to swim in college as well. “She was in a lessons program, SwimAmerica. We were both in that. And then she joined a club team and I followed her onto that club team.”
It wasn’t an easy sell for the younger sister. She resisted swimming at first.
“When I was younger, I was kind of reluctant,” Czelusniak said. “My mom had to force me to go in the pool. But then I learned to love it. Especially my friends, they made it great. I had no idea it would be this huge part of my life, but now that it is, I’m glad I discovered it.”
For Ewing, she’s already become a major addition in and out of the pool.
“I’m looking forward to Emily’s future with the team,” Devlin said. “Last year, she didn’t quite make it back for finals at the Mercer County Tournament. That’s going to be a goal of ours. In our dual meets, she’s a solid competitor. She earns lots of first- and second-place finishes. She earns lots of points for our team and she’ll be a high point scorer.”
After being on the team for a year, it was easier to know the other swimmers and where they needed help, and she’s able to mentor the newcomers this years. Czelusniak has added a dimension to her team worth.
“As a freshman, she was a leader on the team scoring points last year,” Devlin said. “This year, she’s taking more of a leadership role. The feedback she’s giving these swimmers is valuable and important.”
Czelusniak has come back stronger and faster for this season. She already went a personal-best 1:08.23 in the 100 fly in the season opener against talented Princeton, and clocked a best of 1:20.40 to win the 100 breast at Robbinsville.
Czelusniak has enjoyed individual success, but looks forward to the relays for their camaraderie. Greschak, Ariunbold and Penner had Ewing neck and neck with Steinert after three legs before Czelusniak pulled them away for the win in the 200 free relay.
“High school, they have so much energy and enthusiasm,” Czelusniak said. “They make me smile. The whole team is at the end of my lane cheering me on and they make me want to go faster. I love cheering for them too.”
Czelusniak and the Blue Devils will continue to chase new best times and higher goals. She is looking forward to helping her teammates develop any way she can.
“As a team, we want to just keep dropping time and improving their strokes,” Czelusniak said. “We’re trying new things and having fun. That’s really what it’s all about.”