It was a clash of titans when the undefeated Princeton High boys’ swim team hosted once-beaten Notre Dame last week with both squads having been ranked in the top 20 in the state most of the season.
But PHS junior star Colburn Yu didn’t feel he was in top form for the regular season showdown.
“I also do club swimming with X-Cel; we did a lot of dry land yesterday and I was really sore,” said Yu, who was bothered by some shoulder pain.
“Going into the meet I told coach [Greg] Hand that I am really sore, I don’t know if I can swim my fastest.”
Yu knew that PHS was primed for some very fast swimming as it faced the Fighting Irish.
“We looked at this as more of a power point meet,” said Yu. “Of course, we wanted to get first but I think the most important thing was getting our fastest times and being able to rank higher in the state meets.”
Yu’s come-from-behind victory in the 200 individual medley which saw him nip Notre Dame’s Max Cummings by 0.18 of a second had to rank as one of the highlights of the meet as the Little Tigers prevailed 110-60.
“I did realize in the fly and backstroke that I wasn’t swimming my fastest; in the breaststroke and freestyle I picked it up,” recalled Yu, whose valiant rally drew roars from the crowd jamming the John Witherspoon pool.
“I think I was a little behind him in the beginning of the freestyle and then I was watching the crowd. I actually thought I lost at first but then I saw the board and I was first by a couple of milliseconds. I was really happy.”
Yu also posted a win in the 100 breaststroke, leading a PHS 1-2-3 sweep of the event with Daniel Andronov taking second and Alex Bank placing third.
Other individual winners for PHS in the meet included junior Peter Kalibat in the 200 and 500 freestyle races, junior Will Stange in the 100 butterfly and 100 back together with junior Matt Purdy in the 50 free.
While Yu’s victory in the 100 breast wasn’t as dramatic as his IM race, he was still happy with the effort.
“The 100 breaststroke is my best stroke and coach Hand always uses me for it in these really fast meets,” said Yu. “I think I did decently. It was the second time this season that I got a 1:01. When it matters, I will be able to deliver.”
Following in the footsteps of last year’s senior stars who led PHS to an undefeated season and a state Public B state title, Yu and his classmates are excited to deliver this winter.
“I know that Will Stange, Peter Kalibat, Matt Purdy, and I have scored the most points on our team and I think it is good for our team,” added Yu.
“It also shows the non-club swimmers that we can step it up and also that they can as well.”
PHS head coach Hand liked the way his swimmers kept stepping up against Notre Dame even when victory was assured.
“We put in our strongest lineup that we could for power points,” said Hand. “It was good to see the guys keep pushing even when things looked good on the scoreboard. I am happy with where we are at; they gave it a strong effort to the end.”
Hand was happy with how Yu battled through his pain. “I wanted him looked at to make sure he was OK and it was just soreness,” said Hand.
“Given that he was cleared, he just ran with it. The 200 IM was a great race. When you get a race where it is close like that, the whole crowd watches. It was a real boost for us and the idea that we are going to swim fast. That was the approach; they raced for everything. In the last 25 yards, Colburn was courageous; he dug deep and sustained that against a guy next to him who was doing the same thing.”
PHS sustained that effort throughout the meet. “It was fun for the guys who race a lot to swim some fast races in a short time period,” added Hand, whose team wraps up regular season action with a meet at Hamilton on January 24 before competing in the Mercer County Championships from January 31-February 2 at Lawrence High. “The whole center lane crew was feeling their way.”
Yu, for his part, is having a lot of fun in his third season with the PHS program.
“As a junior, I think obviously my times are a little faster because I have been training a lot harder,” said Yu.
“Also I think because it is my third year on the high school team. I feel a greater bond with the kids here. At a club meet with nobody cheering and just a coach yelling at you, it doesn’t do anything. But to see all of your friends cheering, it definitely does help.”