It’s been four years since Stuyvesant’s girls’ swimming team, the Penguins, has lost a city championship. That’s before current seniors were even at Stuyvesant. It’s before current freshmen were even in middle school. On Tuesday, November 22, the Penguins continued their streak of dominance with a win over Brooklyn Technical’s Engineers to become city champions for the fourth year in a row.
This was the second straight year the Penguins and Engineers met in the city championships. Going into the meet, the Penguins knew that they had a challenge in keeping up with senior Annie Zhu of Brooklyn Technical, who has been scouted by the US Olympic Team and is the number one swimmer in the city.
“We were kind of nervous obviously, because this was the big day,” senior and co-captain Sharon Romero said. “Knowing we were going up against a swimmer like that kind of made us more nervous.”
“It was going to be very close. Second and third place were going to matter for this meet,” coach Kristen Sabala said.
In the practices leading up to the championships, Sabala had her swimmers work on the intricacies of swimming, such as starts and flip turns. She also asked them to worry only about the competition, not their times.
“Our coach told us to race the girl next to us, and that’s what we did,” senior and co-captain Hana Yampolsky said.
In the meet, Sabala decided to shake things up and put her swimmers in different events. “My usual event is the 100 free,” senior and co-captain Maggie Yeung said. “But today, Hana swam it, and she came in first.”
The most exciting moment of the meet came in the final race, the 400-yard freestyle relay. With a one-lap lead over Brooklyn Technical, Stuyvesant looked poised to win. However, when Zhu was relayed in, she quickly erased that lead, and won the race for the Engineers by a small margin. The Penguins managed to take second and third place.
The win concluded a successful season for the Penguins, a win that saw them undefeated in the regular season and through the postseason. Their most memorable wins this season were against Hunter College High School, the wins “which really prepared us to race,” Sabala said. The Penguins swam against Hunter twice, winning by seven points in the first meet and a mere four points in the second meet.
Having six seniors graduate last year meant that there were holes on the team that would need to be filled by incoming freshmen. “I didn’t know what kind of freshmen we would get to replace the seniors. It’s a good freshmen class, so that’s positive,” Sabala said. Freshman Sappha O’Meara has become an integral part to the team’s unbeaten 200-yard medley relay squad as well as the team’s top swimmer in the grueling 500-yard freestyle race. O’Meara managed to place first in all but one race against Brooklyn Technical. In that one race, she finished second.
Romero compared the team to a “happy family.” “Every moment we were together, we bonded,” she said, noting that the team even had a bonding day in Central Park at the beginning of the season where “everyone got the chance to really get to know each other.”
Now that many of the team’s top swimmers are graduating however, the Penguin’s performance next year is still up in the air. “I just hope we get some good freshmen,” Sabala said. “It’s going to be tough to replace the girls we’re losing.”