While his teammates on the Princeton High boys’ swimming team whooped it up on the deck at the Neptune Aquatics Center last Friday after winning the Public B Central Jersey Sectional, Colburn Yu stood quietly by.
For senior star Yu, top-seeded PHS’s 115-55 triumph over No. 2 Lawrence High had a been there, done that feel.
“This is my fourth year at sectionals and each year the boys team has won so I know the gist of everything already,” said Yu, who was a key contributor when PHS won the Public B state title in 2012.
“Coach Hand told us not to assume things and just don’t think that you will win because you never know what to expect. I think we all swam pretty hard. We all made sure that we did what we needed to do in order to win this meet. Our score shows that.”
Yu did his part in the victory, taking second in the 200 individual medley and winning the 100 breaststroke, his specialty, as the Little Tigers improved to 12-0. For Yu, finishing behind classmate Avery Soong in the IM was a matter of taking care of business.
“The IM is not really my best event. I think the only reason I am good at it is because of my breaststroke,” said Yu.
“I was talking to Avery about this beforehand and we were just saying that if we go 1-2 in the IM we are going to be good and that’s basically what we did.”
Yu felt good about his win in the breaststroke, displaying the technique that helped him win the county title in the event.
“I have always noticed that breaststrokers tend to be smaller than the other strokes,” said the wiry Yu, who competes for the X-Cel club team and will be continuing his swimming career at Johns Hopkins.
“I feel like the breaststroke is more of a technique stroke than how big you are. I know that my technique is pretty good. I have gotten training specifically for breaststroke. When we go to the semifinals and hopefully we will make it to the finals, I will definitely bring it up a notch and go around my best time which should be a 57 or 58.”
It was not surprising to Yu that PHS took things up a notch in the sectional final.
“I think it is really special, not a whole lot of kids get to have four sectional titles,” said Yu.
“Our team has a lot of depth. I give credit to the seniors who were here two years ago. I learned a lot from them and hopefully what I have learned from them, I pass down to the kids who are underclassmen this year. Once we leave, they are going to need to work a lot harder to be able to win meets. Our senior class tends to score the most points at all of these meets.”
PHS head coach Greg Hand thinks pretty highly of this year’s senior group.
“The titles speak to the talent but the way they have approached their membership on the Princeton High team is the real standout performance,” said Hand, who has now guided the PHS boys’ swimmers to six straight sectional titles.
“These guys have always been there for each other. They always get committed to a total effort when we get to the meets that are the toughest. These guys have been able to swim in a state final, which they lost, a state final, which they won, and a state semifinal, which was virtually a tie. It was very disappointing but they walked away satisfied with the effort, that was the deal. We couldn’t control the 100th of a second thing and then here they are going to a state semifinal.”
Hand sees Yu as being in control of his swimming. “I think Colburn has got some great perspective now on the sport and how to meet the demands of the sport, how to respond to the challenges and disappointments that the sport offers,” said Hand.
“He has the classiness of being pretty selfless about his achievements and giving it up for the team.”
Three of the team’s other senior stars also gave PHS some big performances in the sectional final as Peter Kalibat won both the 200 and 500 freestyle races while Will Stange was victorious in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke and Matt Purdy took first in the 50 and 100 free races.
“I really admire Pete Kalibat for just knocking out consistently strong swims in the 200 and the 500, likewise, Will Stange, the same with his swims,” said Hand.
“Matt Purdy sprinted really well today. He did a great 100. He took it out slower and tried to build every 25 which is not a strategy he has used much before.”
PHS will have to compete really well as it now faces Summit in the Public B state semis on February 19 in a rematch of last year’s semis that saw the Little Tigers lose an 87-83 nailbiter.
“For sure, these guys don’t assume anything, getting to this level,” said Hand, whose team would advance to a third state final in the last four years on February 23 if they can overcome Summit.
“Summit’s power points are down but the last thing to do would be to misjudge that team, a defending state champion, the team that beat us last year. They graduated some but have some other kids on their roster.”
Yu, for his part, believes PHS’s older kids can lead the team to a second state title in the last three years.
“I know that the seniors and juniors both know what it feels like to go to the state finals and we can definitely step it up and tell the younger kids what it is to step it up,” said Yu. “As long as they see we are in the mood, they are going to follow.”