Since the Princeton High girls’ swimming team hadn’t defeated WW/P-S this century before the meet between the rivals last Thursday, Serena Deardorff and her PHS teammates weren’t dwelling on recent history.
“We have never beaten them but instead of coming into the meet planning on winning, I think the upperclassmen focused on just getting the underclassmen psyched to do their best,” said senior star Deardorff. “We wanted them to do their best times in the pool and just have fun with it.”
The Little Tigers ended up having a lot of fun as they posted a 94-76 win over the visiting Pirates at John Witherspoon pool to end their losing streak in the series and improve to 7-0 on the season.
Deardorff made a major contribution to the breakthrough victory, swimming the anchor leg on the winning 200 medley relay and then taking first in both the 50 and 100 freestyle races. Other individual victors for PHS included senior Marisa Giglio in the 100 breaststroke and Deardorff’s younger sister, freshman Madeleine, in the 200 individual medley.
For Deardorff, coming through in the 200 medley relay to start the meet helped set the tone for the contest.
“I feel like coming out strong was definitely a goal for our team because it got everyone pumped,” said Deardorff. “It was just really exciting, the energy on the deck was incredible.”
It has been exciting for Deardorff to show the ropes to her younger sister. “I love having her on the team; I feel like I and the other seniors have to be good role models for the underclassmen,” said a smiling Deardorff, whose older bother, Peter, was a star for the PHS boys’ team and is now swimming for the Bowdoin College men’s squad.
“I like having my sister on the deck, I can get her psyched for her races. It is just fun to have her on my club and my high school team.”
Having been a star for the Little Tigers since joining the team as a freshman, Deardorff is psyched for her final campaign with the program.
“I am not really focusing on my times, I am just trying to have fun with the season and keep up where I am at,” said Deardorff, who is heading to Amherst College where she will be competing for the women’s swim team.
“It is definitely fun having a good final high school season and having fun with your teammates. I think that we are more unified than we have been in the past. We are really cohesive this year which really makes the atmosphere on the deck a lot better.”
PHS head coach Greg Hand saw the victory in the 200 medley relay as a spark for what followed.
“What I like the most is certainly getting the one and then having the B relay coming in third,” said Hand.
“That is a great way to start any meet. I really liked the team attitude today. I thought the kids did a terrific job of not worrying about themselves and just supporting their teammates.”
Hand likes the way the Deardorff sisters are supporting each other. “It just looks like they are having a terrific time having the opportunity to be on the same team for at least a year,” said Hand.
“I remember my own children way back also had what I think is a unique experience to be able to compete with a sibling, not against a sibling.”
The Deardorffs are certainly competing well for the Little Tigers. “Serena swam very well for us today,” said Hand.
“It is not about PRs, it is can you swim every race well on dual meet day even in the middle of regular tough training which makes you tired and she did that. Freshmen deserve the security of not being asked to do anything more than just cheering for their teammates and swim the best race they can. Maddie has a terrific role model in her older sister.”
While Hand didn’t want to dwell on the significance of breaking the losing streak against WW/P-S, he acknowledged that the win is a good sign for his squad.
“I see it more just in terms of this season; what are our relative strengths and our relative weaknesses,” said Hand, whose team hosts WW/P-N on January 10 and Notre Dame on January 15.
“The more you get into the season, the more you pay attention to who is slightly faster than somebody else. There was just a lot of learning going on today because the great thing about our rivalry is that we always come to swim fast on that day. We always know that the other team is going to be classy and they are going to come to race. I think it is a terrific athletic environment when we race South.”
Deardorff, for her part, believes that win over WW/P-S demonstrates that PHS can do some terrific things this winter.
“This definitely got the girls’ team psyched for what is to come,” asserted Deardorff.
“Now we know we can go really far and hopefully to states and just see how things go. We are not going to go into any meets focused on winning.”