January 18, 2012

Sparked by Hebert’s Comeback From Injury, PHS Boys’ Swim Team Poised for Big Things

Addison Hebert had an ice pack on his left shoulder and a smile on his face after helping the Princeton High boys’ swimming team top Steinert last Thursday.

Fighting through tendinitis, the PHS senior star played a major role in the 119-51 victory, winning the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly and swimming legs for the victorious 200 medley and 200 free relays.

For Hebert, the win in the 200 IM was a personal highlight. “I am just coming back from a shoulder injury,” said Hebert, who was sidelined for about a month in the early stages of the season.

“It was actually a great swim for me. I dropped two seconds and it put a lot of positive perspective for me to know that there is more to come. I am going to start training even harder and the rest of the team will follow suit and we will all get better and swim faster.”

Hebert was also heartened by his swim in the butterfly “I was really pleased with what I did,” said Hebert.

“It was tough right after the 200 medley; I was exhausted. I am glad I gave it all I had. I wasn’t far off my best time so it was nice. I had a good time doing it.”

It wasn’t easy for Hebert to pull off that double as his shoulder was bothering him.

“It was hurting today,” said Hebert. “I was glad I was able to hold back that pain and do the swims I did.”

Unfortunately, Hebert has gained a lot of experience in swimming through pain during his PHS career.

“Believe it or not, all four years in high school I have had an injury,” said Hebert, who had bouts with tendinitis in his freshman and sophomore seasons before cracking his elbow last year in a bicycle accident.

“I always wished that I would have been able to stay in the groove and continue training all year without having to take a month and a half pause. I deal with what is given to me and I make the best out of it and keep a positive attitude all the time. Now that I am back in the season, I have to pick my game up. I have to start working even harder.”

Hebert enjoys working with his classmates as they have helped transform PHS into a dominant force, winning three straight Public B Central Jersey sectional crowns and cruising to the county title last year.

“We have been with each other for four years and we have all been doing so well,” said Hebert, whose fellow senior stars include Victor Honore, Matt Kuhlik, Derek Colaizzo, Harun Filipovic, and Jacques Bazile.

“It has been a great bonding experience for all of us. We have grown so much together as a team. We have all learned to deal with the stress as a team and to deal with the wins and losses. It is just great to have them here; it is almost like a big family.”

That senior group is shooting to add another win in the county meet to their already stellar resume.

“Hopefully we will be able to repeat last year,” said Hebert, reflecting on the county championship meet which is slated for February 4.

“We have a really solid lineup with great depth all around. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get a lot of firsts and seconds there and win it again. It will be pretty awesome.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand thought his team displayed an awesome presence as it improved to 8-0 with the victory over Steinert.

“I was paying attention to how they looked; I thought we had a great chemistry on the deck today,” asserted Hand, who also got wins from Peter Kalibat in the 200 free, Kuhlik in the 50 free, Colaizzo in the 100 free, Honore in the 500 free, and Will Stange in the 100 backstroke.

“It is our best job this year in having a nice, loose but very focused attitude. There was a lot of cheering and a lot of positive feedback after races. They were not over activated in the sense about worrying about stuff. I think that is important for going down the line. On the day when we have to swim our fastest,  it is good to come out feeling really relaxed and be ready to perform physically rather than being uptight.”

It is important for PHS to have Hebert swimming at full strength. “Addie is versatile but he also has specific things that he brings to us, particularly in butterfly and IM,” said Hand.

“So as we move into  the final phase, he allows us to think about the shape of our medley and our free relays. Assuming he keeps coming along in his butterfly, I see him as being in four events now instead of having to be limited to freestyle. Time will tell but the more secure he feels, the better we are.”

While the county meet is on the horizon, PHS isn’t looking ahead to that.

“What is really nice is that we have hardly thought about counties at all,” said Hand, whose team was slated to swim at WW/P-N on January 17 and at Notre Dame on January 20 before hosting Hightstown on January 24.

“We have got big meets next week with North and Notre Dame and we are focusing on that. We want to be real fast on one of those days.”

Hand knows that his swimmers will have to be fast if they are to make a second straight appearance in the Public B state championship meet.

“First of all, we want to be one of the top four power point teams if we can,” said Hand, whose team fell 90-80 to Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the title meet last winter.

“If we can’t, so be it. If we have to swim a championship meet early, we will do it. Summit has been on the radar, Scotch Plains is all over the radar. They swim very fast and they swim against very good teams. Haddonfield, Mountain Lakes, and Ocean are all there. I don’t think getting one of the top seeds is an automatic.”

Hebert, for his part, will be maintaining his customary positive approach, no matter who PHS ends up facing in the states.

“We are keeping all the pressure off of us; we are just going into it,” said Hebert.

“If we get into states, we are going there to swim fast. We are not defending anything or any title. We are not seeking revenge. We are going in strong and we just want to win states.”