PHS Boys' Swim Team Has Lost Stars, Looking to Scrap its Way to Wins
By Bill Alden
This past March, the Princeton High boys' swimming team culminated a dominant campaign by taking second in the NJSIAA Public B state tournament.
The narrow 91-79 loss to Mainland culminated the careers of a special crew of seniors who helped the program win two straight Mercer County titles and make it to two straight state finals.
As PHS coach Greg Hand looks ahead to the upcoming season, he acknowledges that the program will sorely miss its Class of 2003 that featured such stars as distance specialist Mark Fisher, butterfly star Yoshi Deligne, and ace backstroker Nate Ristuccia.
"The seniors that graduated had such a great run, they can't be replaced," asserted Hand, whose team went 14-1 last winter with its only losses in dual meets over the last two years having come in the state finals.
"We were almost always able to win the eight individual events and two of the three relays. We then got a lot of seconds, thirds, and fourths to win the meets."
While the Little Tigers may not have the star-studded line-up this winter to rival the last few seasons, they still boast some headliners including towering senior freestyler Jesse Applegate and junior medley and breaststroke star Pete Hand.
"This year's squad will have some dominant frontliners and good back-up," explained Hand, who is in his eight year guiding the PHS swimming program. "Jesse and Pete are in great shape, their strokes are still improving."
Other veterans who should score plenty of points for PHS include seniors Andrew Ferguson, Billy Boyce, and Anson Hook.
Ferguson could emerge as a force, according to Hand. "Andrew is not swimming at the club level and is doing a terrific job leading the team in workouts and in training," said Hand. "He has really developed his fitness, he will be a much stronger swimmer this season."
Other veterans who will contribute include juniors Tom McKinley, Zach Juffe, Matt Millar, John Shaw, and Ben Tsou together with sophomores Devin White and Wan Cha.
Hand has several freshmen who should make an impact such as Alec Hook, Joe Carroll, Mike Stehn, James Beslity, Jimmy Newcombe, Andrew Gavenda, and Nick Cecan.
While Hand isn't expecting this team to match what the program has accomplished the last two winters, he is optimistic about its prospects.
"I think that in the easier meets we will be fine but the rivalry meets will produce much closer contests," said Hand, whose team opens the season by competing in the Knight Relay Invitational at WW/P-N on December 13 and then traveling to Steinert on December 16.
"It would be a huge reach to think that we could win counties, it would be great to be in the top three."
But no matter what results the Little Tigers achieve, Hand is sure that his swimmers will get the most out of what they have. "I know we will swim with the same kind of attitude," maintained Hand. "We'll take the right approach and we'll scrap."