By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
The West Windsor-Plainsboro High South swim teams came into their own Pirate Invitational already having successful seasons.
Last Saturday they continued to impress with a strong performance at the Pirate Invitational. The South boys were first and the girls finished second against a strong field of competitors.
“It was a great meet,” said first-year WW-P South coach Jessica Turner. “Everyone had a blast and we had a great outcome in the end. The boys have had a great start to the season. They were going into the Pirate undefeated. They were first two years ago and second last year so this year they wanted to take back that first. We knew we had the depth to do it. We just had to get everyone on the deck and screaming and yelling and supporting their teammates. We had some fantastic times and the results showed that.
The Pirate boys finished first with 279 points to easily outdistance second place Pennsbury. WW-P North was fourth in the eight team field with 157 points. The Pirates picked up a pair of wins from Richard Deng, who won the 50 free and 100 back. He was also part of the winning medley relay. Kurt von Autenried was second in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly.
“It’s nice to see some of the guys who at the beginning of the year were struggling and now they are dropping time,” Turner said. “They have moved up into the B relay and into some individual events. I have two great assistant coaches with me that have helped the kid improve and we’re really excited about what we have done.”
Aleksandr Simonelli was second in the 100 free and third in the 200 free, Manish Rachamallu was fifth in the 200 IM and 100 breast, Michael Zhong was fourth in the butterfly, Kyle Dixon-Anderson was third in the 500 free, Alex He was fourth in the 100 breast, and Michael Krigeris was second in the 100 breast and sixth in the 500 free.
The North boys had some strong individual performances as well. The Knights’ Deion Alfajora was first in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke, while Matthew Lequang won the 500 free and was second in the 200 free. Shotallo Kato was fourth in the 50 free and fifth in the 100 free.
The WW-P South girls finished with 203 points and were second to Pennsbury, which finished with 228. WW-P North was sixth and Stuart Country Day was seventh.
The Pirates were led by Annie Menninger, who won the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke. Mady Ferguson was fourth in the 200 free and fifth in the 100 free, Jennifer Clancey was sixth in the 200 free, Adviti Sarang was fifth in the 100 breaststroke.
The girls had a fantastic meet,” Turner said. “Last year they were third. We had a rough first two meets of the season. We had to get used to me being a new coach but we have really come together and been swimming very well. Some of the girls have made excellent improvement and that has been great to see. When we get three girls into an A final that shows great representation for the school.
“You are always expecting to do well but when you see something like that it catches you off guard. You look at the scores as you are going along and then you have some people surprised you and move up in the finals and it shows in the scores.”
Menninger had the best meet of all the Pirate girls, capturing a pair of first places.
“Annie has been great,” Turner said. “She is one of our senior captains and she represents our team well inside and out of the pool. She is a great leader. She’ll jump in at practice and help the more developing swimmers. It’s great to have that leadership role and then to also have her talents in the pool as well.
“She really helps hold in the whole team together. About half our kids swim for a club so they are not at practice all the time. But when they are there you can’t tell a difference in the team. Team-wise they are there with the others cheering and showing a positive attitude. They just blend in and bring that depth and help develop the team.”
For WW-P North, Rebecca Adlai-Gail was third in the 50 free and fifth in the 200 free, Hana Kato was fourth in the 100 fly and fifth in the 50 free, Gwen Yuen was fifth in the 100 back. Katie McLaughlin of Stuart was third in the 100 fly
Turner, who swam in the Pirate as a high school swimmer at Hunterdon Central, knows how big an accomplishment it is to come away with a performance like her team did last Saturday.
“I swam for Hunterdon Central and I remember the last Pirate I attended as a swimmer,” Turner said. “There were different teams and the level of competition was very high. It’s great to see different teams. The only team we swim that was at the Pirate was North. We have a dual meet with them later in the season. They are also having a nice year. This meet gave the faster swimmers some nice competition against a different level.
“Every kid got to swim whether it was in a relay or an individual event. We had a lot of guys go to the A and B finals which is always nice to see. You get the psych sheet see where the kids are seeded and have a sense one or two might make the A or B final and then some sneak up and do better than you expected. We had a lot of different people contribute to the team success.”
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor