The Oxford Dictionary defines dominance as having power and/or influence over others. There is no other word that better describes the Half Hollow Hills Varsity Swim Team over the past ten years. One only needs to look at a single number to comprehend how long the team has been reigning, and that number is 10. 10 is the amount of county titles in a row that the team will have under their belt if they are able to win on Saturday, February 13th, at Suffolk County Community College.
Just to put this type of unprecedented run in perspective, their last loss came against Ward Melville, well before any of the current team members were part of the group. Since that time they have remained undefeated, including this season where they finished at an impeccable 6-0 including a reassuring win coming against Ward Melville.
“The number one factor [of our success] is how early we have had our swimmers come up to varsity,” said Coach Chris Blumenstetter, “Getting young swimmers up for their eighth grade year to experience the varsity level and train with older swimmers is invaluable. By the time they are freshmen, second year swimmers know what practices and meets will be like and what level of achievement we expect from them.” This early recruiting system has not only proven beneficial in the immediate future, but has set up how this team will perform in years to come.
No team can come this far without handling adversity. After the unexpected departure of coach Jason Wiedersum this year, winning a 10th title in a row seemed improbable. The resilience of this team has proven otherwise, and that is the reason why they have been able to maintain their winning streak into the 2015-2016 postseason.
The last time a Long Island Varsity Swim Team was able to have this much success, Chuck Brown was coaching the West Islip Swim Team from 1957-1983, winning 15 consecutive Suffolk County Championships from 1962-1977. Overall, he and his team compiled 20 county championships, and this team seems to be following in their footsteps. Winning 10 in a row would bring them one step closer to this elite group of teams.
There is an aspect of swimming that is overlooked, and that is the dynamic between the individual and the team. Even though swimming is looked at as an individual sport, everyone on the team needs to perform to his best ability to consistently win meets.
For example, a swimmer can win a race in a specific event get accolades for that, but if other members of the team do not contribute in the individual events or in relays, it is easily possible to lose the meet. Just like any other sport, there is an accountability for each swimmer. When it comes time for counties and states, the relationship between individuality and teamwork is intensified. Each swimmer needs to reach a difficult qualification time for the specific event that they are competing in. This can be done if the swimmer beats the time at any of the meets during the season, whether the time be for counties or states.
This year, around twenty people were able to qualify for counties and eight have been able to qualify for states, including High School West senior Justin Chang, who was able to just make it in the 100 yard backstroke with 0:00.24 seconds to spare. Other members of the 2015-2016 state team from High Schools West and East include Alex Park, Daniel Lee, Dylan Chan, Kabir Randhawa, Ethan Tack, Harrison Tack, and Matthew Mattera.
When asked about the feeling of qualifying for states, Ethan Tack said, “The team’s focus on self determination has reached each member of the team, and has allowed everyone to work hard so that they can reach that goal of qualifying for states. Once that goal is reached, it’s a huge relief. It feels empowering to have the opportunity to represent my school in states.”
The team has never been able to win a state title, but this season provides a realistic hope of accomplishing that. The general feeling of the team is that there is no one out there that is better than their own best. The state meet is up north in Buffalo and begins on March 4th.
History would indicate that winning for the tenth time in a row would be over before it began, but it is also the fate of glass to break. Anyone who watches sports at any level knows that a season of hard work could be over in the blink of an eye. However, that fear is not stopping this team, which exudes confidence and unrivaled passion. Even though swimming tends to be an overlooked sport, this year people will take notice when the team transforms into a dynasty.