Sanjana Madhu was swimming at the age of 4, and it wasn’t long before she discovered that it was a sport that wanted to pursue.
“At first, it was a fun sport to play around in the pool,” Madhu recalled. “Then I realized I liked the competition aspect of it and racing was fun. I started swimming on Scarlet and then I moved to Peddie.”
Madhu remains a competitive club swimmer with Peddie Aquatics, and is in her fourth year of swimming on the Robbinsville High School girls’ swim team. A senior captain for the Ravens, Madhu has seen a transformation in the team since her arrival.
“Our team has immensely grown since my freshman year,” Madhu said. “We’ve gotten so many more swimmers interested in swimming in high school and we’ve gotten great coaches who work so hard in practice. You can tell they really care about the team.”
Robbinsville jumped out to a 6-1 start to the season, one of the best starts in program history. The Ravens took a 95-75 win over Princeton, perennial Colonial Valley Conference powerhouse.
“We’ve won a lot of meets against teams that we’d lose to before,” Madhu said. “Princeton, we were able to beat them this year which was really great.”
Madhu won her usual events against Princeton, the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly, and helping the 200 medley relay and 400 free relays both win as well. The Ravens have always had a couple of strong year-round swimmers, but the difference this year is the number of committed swimmers that are on the team.
“In previous years we had a lot of strong, standout swimmers,” Madhu said. “This year we have more depth. We have a range of swimmers who can do a lot of different strokes.”
The Ravens look like they could be good for years to come. Madhu’s usual 200 medley relay included her and three freshmen: Brielle Peerboom (backstroke), Mackenzie Moran (breaststroke) and Lea Emanuel (freestyle).
“We have a good medley relay that we’re happy about,” said Robbinsville head coach Morgan Sawin. “We don’t have a lot of weak spots, which is nice.”
The third-year head coach saw the promise early as the team was assembling.
“We didn’t lose a ton of seniors,” Sawin said. “We lost a few swimmers to club swimming, but that happens every year and every team had that this year. What we lost, we gained back with freshmen. We have some pretty good freshmen from both Robbinsville and Allentown. All three of our best breaststrokers are freshmen, our sprint freestyler is a freshman, and our best backstroker is a freshman. They rounded out the team nicely.”
‘I’m so proud and happy for our team with that what they did. As the years go on I think it’ll keep getting better for our team.’
The Ravens’ opponents have taken notice of the more formidable team. They are getting more respect from the CVC after following up last year’s fourth-place finish at the Mercer County Tournament with another good group.
“With our placing last year in MCTs, I think other teams thought we were a better team so they were putting up better lineups against us,” Madhu said. “We were expected to bring back a strong team.”
This year’s county meet took place Jan. 26 at West Windsor-Plainsboro North, where RHS finished eighth as a team. Madhu helped the Ravens win their heat in the 200-meter medley relay.
The Ravens went on to qualify for the Central Jersey Group “A” tournament, where they dropped a close meet in the opening round, 88-82, to South Brunswick Feb. 4.
Expectations are changing for the Ravens. Robbinsville has the potential to be among the top teams for years to come if it continues its upward trend. The Ravens have stabilized under Sawin, who has every intention of staying to build the program.
“Our first year, a lot of teams didn’t expect us to be as good as we were,” Sawin said. “We had some surprise wins because teams weren’t ready for us. Now they’re ready for us. We can tell going into some of these dual meets that they’re putting up their best lineups for us. Even if they beat us, we’re happy they have to put their best lineup in there to win. Any time we can give a team a run for their money, we’re happy about it.”
Robbinsville was more capable of pushing opponents this year thanks to an influx of talent. It’s changed how the Ravens viewed meets as well.
“We have a lot of depth this year,” Sawin said. “Sometimes it’s hard to write a lineup because we have a lot of girls that are versatile and they could go anywhere. It’s a good problem to have.”
Madhu has been a big part of that, and Robbinsville has come to count on her.
“She’s been swimming her whole life,” Sawin said. “She swims for Peddie. She’s got that natural leadership thing where she can tell people what to do in a good way. She can tell them and it’s not bossy sounding. It’s a good quality to have. Her swimming backs it up. She’s great to have on the team.”
Madhu has enjoyed being a captain this year, leading the team in building camaraderie and getting her teammates psyched up for races with cheers. Now that her final high school races are over, she is contemplating possibly competing in college.
“I’m so proud and happy for our team with that what they did,” Madhu said. “As the years go on I think it’ll keep getting better for our team.”