Once again, the Pirates, Stuyvesant’s boys’ swimming team, have reached the Public Schools Athletic Association’s Citywide Playoffs. Once again, they have not lost a single regular season meet. Yet, for the experienced members of the team that has now become the top ranked seed in the playoffs for the third straight season, this is where they would like the similarities with their previous disappointing playoff runs to end.
The Pirates are a team with one of the proudest legacies at Stuyvesant, and they have come to expect success. Even with the loss of talented seniors, the team continues to remain undefeated in the regular season year after year. Head coach and physical education teacher Peter Bologna attributes the constant flow of talent to the work ethic students bring with them to Stuyvesant. “Stuyvesant students are a different bunch from students at many other high schools,” Bologna said. “They really put their minds to something, and it seems that swimming is something the school is good at year in and year out.”
To this point, this season has offered much of the same type of success and the team has been consistently defeating opponents by large margins. However, the team did have some rough patches in the early portion of the season. “It [the season] started off a little choppy because the rookies were just getting used to how the team runs and what is expected of them, but they caught on pretty quickly,” senior and co-captain Alex Ting said. “The nine rookies and the returners all get along pretty well and help each other grow in terms of swimming.”
While their record did not show any signs of struggle, the team definitely thought they had room for improvement. In fact, the veterans on the team stepped in and began talking to the newcomers to help them focus. “We’ve started to come together the last two to three weeks as a team,” said senior and co-captain John Connuck, before their regular season finale against DeWitt Clinton on January 22, which they won 65-32. “They [the team] realize that it’s serious and we have a good shot at winning and we’ve talked to them about it. Practices have gotten a lot harder, and we’ve become a lot stricter on them as well.”
One of the underclassmen on the team, sophomore En Wei Hu Van Wright, has particularly shined and become one of the top swimmers in the city, swimming the 100 yard backstroke in 53.4 seconds (the third best time in the entire city) and excelling in many other events as well. Meanwhile, senior Peter Malychev has continued to be one of the most consistent swimmers on the team, excelling in both the 200 and 100 yard freestyle races.
Going forward, the Pirates face tough competition in the playoffs, which will be a twelve-team tournament. However, before they look to become city champions, they have a more proximal goal to accomplish. “For now, our main focus is on the Opens Championships on February sixth and seventh, where we hope to defend our 15-year streak,” Ting said. To help the team rest for the playoffs, Bologna insists that he will begin to ease up the rigor of the practices.
Despite their long run of success, the team knows from its recent playoff failings, against Fort Hamiltion last year and Brooklyn Technical the year before, that it cannot take anything for granted. “Compared to the schools we’ll be competing against in the playoffs, the teams we’ve been playing so far aren’t that great,” Malychev said. “We’ve got a tough road ahead of us.”That road, however, was eased considerably when the Pirates discovered that Brooklyn Technical High School and Fort Hamilton, seeded numbers two and three respectively, will be on the other half of the tournament bracket and the Pirates will only have to face one of them in the finals, should they advance that far. Adding to their confidence is the fact that they have comfortably defeated Hunter College High School and Bronx High School of Science, the main competition in their bracket, once each already this season.
Ting believes that the team should take advantage of the opportunity. “Our seeding places us in a great position with a lot of potential to win City Championships this year. We are taking it one step at a time trying to continue the legacy of the Stuyvesant Pirates,” he said.
Bologna has tremendous faith in his swimmers as well, and believes that, in the end, their effort throughout the season will determine the final result. “They just have to trust that they’re prepared properly throughout the season. If they know personally that they’ve worked hard during our practices, then it will pay off in the end. If some kids didn’t give it their all, then the results will be something they’re not looking forward to,” Bologna said. “It all depends on how much they want it. If they are hungry for a championship, then we have the ability to win it.”