By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Region – It may be one of the most prolific high school consecutive win streaks that this region has seen in modern times. If records were kept on such accomplishments, it would be a lock that what the Algonquin Regional High School varsity swim team has achieved is unparalleled in any area sport.
56 consecutive victories dating back to January 29, 2011. 15 new school records set. Four consecutive Mid-Wach A championships in that time period and no indication whatsoever that the good times will cease to roll on.
And when the streak ended with the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, it did not conclude with a loss as is the customary manner for when win streaks are snapped. Despite the setback, swimmers and coaches look to focus ahead one meet at a time.
“As I explained to the members of the team at the start of this season, this is a time to not ride on the coattails of past teams, but rather your opportunity to forge your own legacy, starting with a girls’ record of 0-0 and a boys record of 0-0. This team has decided to not look back, but rather look ahead, meet by meet, to what they can accomplish,” said head coach Jean Fedak, who is assisted by Paul Renfrew, Jenna Williams and Mike Fedak.
“I am very proud of the kids we have on this team. They are such a fun group. Every year there is a new wonderful bunch of kids to replace others who have moved on and they bond right away. It doesn’t matter what year you are, you are part of this team.”
The Algonquin Regional High School swim team was started in 1997-98 as a mixed-gender independent swim team with Fedak at the helm. The following year, five schools were participants in the Midland-Wachusett swim league, competing in a mixed-gender format whereby the girls and boys all competed against one another in the same heats with one final score for the meet. Over the past 18 years, the league has grown to include 12 schools.
But a dramatic change occurred this season when the Mid-Wach league voted to change the meet format from one mixed-gender meet to separate girls’ and boys’ meets. Teams remain co-ed but no longer will boys compete against girls in events. Under the new order of all things high school swimming, boys will compete against boys and girls versus girls, a radical shift from the past. Among other factors, what this means is that the Tomahawks incredulous streak of victories has come to an end, not by any defeat, but simply by a format change.
“Of course our swimmers and coaching staff were sad to see the win streak come to an end,” Fedak reflected. “Especially since it was not on our own terms, but rather ended by a decision by the league athletic directors to change the format for the way our league runs swim meets. However, to use a famous quote, ‘it is what it is’. We will deal with the hand that we have been dealt.”
So far, so good to date as the team record for girls heading into the squad’s meet versus Shrewsbury High at Worcester’s Clark University Jan. 5 was 5-0, while the boys entered at 4-1, having dropped a decision to always tough Bromfield High. But the swims to date and the outlook of the team moving forward is as promising as ever, said the senior co-captains, who find an abundance of positives.
“I love when we cheer for the other team. It just unites us all as swimmers,” said Frances Palmer, who competes in nearly every event on the docket. “We all love the same sport. I just love it when everybody gives it their all even when they’re tired. We’re all really good friends. We spend a lot of time together during the season and get to know each other really well.”
“There’s definitely a good bond here between teammates and coaches,” added Ethan McRae. “I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. We’ll put our best foot forward and take things from there.”
A number of top-notch swims occurred in the matchup versus Shrewsbury. Tomahawk swimmers took the girls’ competition handily, 104-60, while the boys prevailed, 98-61. Isabelle Seppa finished first in the 200 and 500-free with both being sectional qualifying times. Nicole Saulnier took first in the 100-breaststroke while Mackenzie Hostage clocked in first in the 50 and 100-free with sectional qualifying times. Rachael Shek finished first in the 100-fly with Caroline Seppa first in the 100-backstroke. Sectional qualifying times occurred with first-place finishes in the 200-medley relay and 200-free relay.
On the boys’ side, Matt Beland finished first in the 200 and 500-free with sectional qualifying times. McRae was first in the 100-breaststroke, Kevin Shi took first in the 50-free and 100-butterfly with both being state qualifying times. Peter Byrne took top honors in the 100-free. Sectional qualifying times occurred with first-place finishes in the 200-medley relay and 200-free relay.
The team consists of 41 swimmers including seniors Peter Byrne, Sarah Fodor, Darby Foster, Filipe Galvao, Catrina Healey, Mackenzie Hostage, Parker Lescalleett, Ethan McRae, Frances Palmer, Sabrina Schick, Isabelle Seppa, Kevin Shi, Dominick Witkowski and juniors Carey Davis, Max Donahue, Gretchen Forbush, Nathan Goddard, Julia Labich, Kayla Morkert, Nick Pierce, Maddie Rawstron, Nate Scaringi, Kelly Slovin and Juliana Young.
“These are good kids. They are friends,” said Fedak of her 2015-2016 squad that trains at the Westborough Tennis and Swim Club. “They have fun and they train hard. This group understands how important it is to bring their ‘A’ game to each meet. We don’t look too far ahead. We take each meet as it comes and work on what we believe we need to perform well for that particular meet and then we move on to the next meet. I think that we will have a great last half of the season.”
“We’ll see at the end, won’t we?” she added with a smile.