In 2012, a stellar group of seniors helped the Princeton High boys’ swimming team make history as it went undefeated and won the program’s first-ever state title.
That group of seniors, which included such standouts as Matt Kuhlik, Jacques Bazile, Harun Filipovic, Derek Colaizzo, Addison Hebert, and Victor Honore, ended their careers with a bang, setting eight team records in 11 events as they routed Scotch Plains-Fanwood 109-61 in the state Public B championship meet.
This winter, PHS boasts another group of seniors who have the potential to make some history of their own.
The team’s Class of 2014 which includes such stalwarts as Peter Kalibat, Scott MacKenzie, Matt Purdy, Will Stange, Matt Tam, and Colburn Yu, went 15-1 last year, winning the program’s third straight county crown and fifth consecutive Public B Central Jersey title.
While PHS head coach Greg Hand isn’t forecasting another state title, he acknowledges that his veterans could do some special things.
“This year is going to test them,” said Hand. “As good as they are, this will be their chance, just as the seniors a couple of years ago had their chance, not to win the championship, I don’t mean the external, that would be great, but to become a kind of team that really produced their very best effort when we needed it.”
Opening its season against Robbinsville last week, PHS produced an outstanding effort as it posted a 131-39 win. The seniors helped lead the way for the Little Tigers as Stange won the 200 individual medley, Purdy placed first in the 500 freestyle, and Tam won the 100 breaststroke. Other victors for PHS included Alex Bank in the 200 free, Alex Petruso in the 50 free, Gabriel Bar-Cohen in the 100 butterfly, and Matthew Shanahan in the 100 backstroke.
“This meet showed some understanding of what the team wants to be about,” said Hand. “Regardless of the opponent, it is a question of do we understand what kind of team we are going to have to be if we have even a shot, even a glimmer of a possibility of being a county champion or a sectional champion, let alone a state champion. So it is really important that these guys show each other that they understand if we get too far ahead of ourselves, we’ll be finished early. I like what I saw today, there was a lot of good positive team spirit.”
PHS is expecting some positive contributions from a crop of promising freshman swimmers.
“Alex Petruso, Will Kinney, Gabriel Bar-Cohen are three kids who are serious club swimmers,” said Hand. “Jaime Schettini has been in club for a little while now. Club says a lot, it shows how much you love the sport and how committed you are to taking the time necessary. If you come to the high school environment, valuing the team, which all of these guys are doing, then good things are going to happen.”
The committed group of seniors is determined to do big things in their final campaign.
“We couldn’t have a better set of role models than the experienced guys,” asserted Hand, whose team topped Lawrence 117-53 last Thursday and will face Hopewell Valley on December 12 in a meet taking place at the Pennington School pool.
“The thing about the seniors is that everybody has improved, everybody has been working hard, and I mean for the last nine months. We have four captains in Stange, Kalibat, Purdy, and Tam. Matt Tam is such a contributor to this team, he swam a PR in the breaststroke tonight. There are meets in which that wouldn’t necessarily score but he won it tonight. What he brings is an absolutely indomitable spirit, a positive approach to things, and a willingness to be enthusiastic when other people might be a little bit timid about it. It is a huge ingredient in our success I think.”
Featuring those seniors along with some precocious newcomers, PHS should enjoy huge success this winter.