As one of the team captains for the Princeton High girls’ swimming team, Taylor Chiang aims to both inspire and focus the squad.
“Mostly, I try to get people pumped up for meets,” said senior star Chiang, who serves as team captain along with classmates Belinda Liu and Kelsey Schwimmer.
“I try to make sure that everyone has the same mindset and that we are all not going into one meet saying this meet doesn’t matter. That is not what we are striving for, even if it’s a good chance we could win the meet, we want to be going in and swimming fast.”
Last Thursday, Chiang helped keep PHS on track as the top-seeded Little Tigers defeated No. 8 Holmdel 110-60 in the quarterfinals of the state Public B Central Jersey sectionals.
Chiang took second in the 100 butterfly and third in the 100 breaststroke to help PHS roll to victory. Individual victors for PHS at the meet included Jamie Liu in the 200 freestyle, Brianna Romaine in the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke, Melinda Tang in the 50 free, and Madeleine Deardorff in the 100 butterfly.
In Chiang’s view, she probably got more out finishing third in the breast than taking second in the fly.
“Holmdel has some really fast girls in the 100 breast which is refreshing to see just because it pushes you a little bit,” said Chiang.
“They actually got first and second in the race and it is really great to race fast swimmers.”
In reflecting on her PHS career, Chiang believes she has become a much more versatile swimmer.
“In freshman year, I was trying to just work hard and by the end of the year I was hitting good times in the breaststroke,” said Chiang.
“From there, I went back to the club and I just started getting a little better and I started swimming other things like the fly. I also swim the 200 free relay too.”
As PHS looks to make a deep run in the state tournament, Chiang believes the team has to maintain its work rate.
“Even though it is the end of the season, we need to be keeping the training going and not be saying oh let’s taper, let’s relax,” said Chiang, who helped PHS defeat fourth-seeded Middletown South 94-76 last Monday in the sectional semis as the Little Tigers, now 11-0, earned a spot in the sectional championship meet against second-seeded Lawrence on February 14.
“Keeping things focused is definitely key because if focus isn’t there and we start to relax in the training environment, that is not going to translate well into meet situations.”
Chiang is used to a variety of competitive situations as she also stars at lacrosse and is heading to Swarthmore College where she will be playing for its women’s lax program.
“I will play winter lacrosse and swim,” said Chiang, explaining how she juggles her two sports.
“When it hits lacrosse time, I swim for a little bit and then I just cut that off. I go back in the fall when it comes to swimming.”
PHS head coach Greg Hand feels that Chiang has been a hit as a captain.
“Taylor is a great leader,” asserted Hand. “She has a big voice but she uses it judiciously and so you have this good mix of always hearing her but she always has something good to say. She is very supportive as a captain. She really reaches out to kids and keeps the team loose and focused.”
Hand saw solid focus from his team in the win over Holmdel. “It was good spirit for the first stage of the single elimination tournament,” said Hand.
“I don’t think anybody is backing down from the idea that we have a shot at the sectional title and maybe a great opportunity therefore to swim in a state semifinals and really push ourselves.”
Chiang, for her part, is determined to push herself hard to the end.
“It has been a long four years and I have been swimming since I was four,” said Chiang.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet that this could be my last year of swimming. It has definitely been a good run. Even though it is a hard sport to get yourself to do sometimes, I have definitely enjoyed it a lot.”