CP Bluefish Swimmers Cap Perfect Season in Style; Utilizing Depth, Talent in Cruising to PASDA Title
BACK ON TOP: Eric Liu powers through the water in a recent backstroke race for the Community Park Bluefish swimming team. Liu helped the Bluefish go 5-0 in dual meet action this summer as the program enjoyed its second straight undefeated campaign in Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) Division 1 action. Liu culminated the summer by taking first in the Division 1 boys’ 18-and-under breaststroke at the PASDA championship meet as the host Bluefish rolled to the Division 1 team title at the meet. CP swimmers piled up 3,805 points in winning the meet with Flemington-Raritan second with 2,158. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
With the Community Park Bluefish coming off an undefeated season in 2015, Mike Uchrin was looking forward to seeing what his swimmers could do this summer.
“We came into the season with some really high expectations and with us hosting the championships, the bar was set really high,” said Bluefish head coach Uchrin.
“I had a feeling, based on how well we did last season and the great assistant coaching staff that I knew was coming back, that we had an opportunity to take it to the next level and exceed those expectations in an incredible way.”
Uchrin’s intuition proved prescient as the Bluefish posted another undefeated season and then capped the summer with a dominant performance in the PASDA championships, piling up 3,805 points to win the Division 1 team title with Flemington-Raritan second with 2,158.
In reflecting on the summer, Uchrin pointed to the program’s inclusive nature as a key to its success.
“The culture is really incredible because it is a combination of a place where kids can come together and work as a team and still have fun first,” said Uchrin.
“The community has embraced us as a place where swimmers of all backgrounds can come to improve, come to have fun, and to make some friends. We have these top level club swimmers enjoying our team alongside some kids who are new to the sport so that combination has really created something special for us.”
As the summer unfolded, it became clear that this year’s squad was a juggernaut.
“Once we got midway through the season, we knew that this was really something special,” said Uchrin.
“We had never won the PASDA Mini Meet, the 10-and-under only meet. I don’t even think we have placed in the top two before and once I saw us go through there and end up winning that, we were in a great position. It was exciting to see that and build it up to have such an amazing time at PASDAs, having fun with it and setting the score that we did. It was really eye-popping in the end.”
The Bluefish got an eye-popping performance at the championship meet in the 10-and-under girls from BB Kim, who won the 25-yard freestyle, 25 backstroke, and 25 butterfly to earn the PASDA MVP award in her age group.
“BB set a new record in the 25 free,” said Uchrin, who got first place finishes in the group from Courtney Weber in the 25 breaststroke and 100 individual medley.
“That 10-and-under group, they were so incredible, coached by Nicky Kratzer, a former Bluefish swimmer. I think we took first overall in every single event and relay in Division I, which is absolutely remarkable. Between Courtney, BB, Piper DuBow, and Georgia Johnson, they brought their A game.”
In the 8-and-under girls, Zoe Bitterman and Emily Walden spearheaded a deep group.
“Zoe Bitterman made a splash last year and she came out and continued it again this year with a strong finish at the PASDAs,” added Uchrin of Bitterman who was third in the 25 free and the 25 fly with Emily Walden winning the 25 free.
“This was probably one of deepest and strongest team in the Association; we had 60 8-and-under swimmers between the boys and the girls. Kelsey Schwimmer and Lillian Buckley did a great job of helping each one of them.”
Depth was a strength of the 12-and-under girls. “For those girls, it was a team effort with Tracey Liu, Abby Walden, Katie DiVenti, Erin Kiesewetter, and Kate Becker,” said Uchrin. “Their relays were top three.”
Susannah Tuder led the way for the 14-and-under girls, taking first in the 50 breast and sixth in the 50 free while Cameron Davis placed second in the 50 free and third 100 IM, Ella Caddeau was second in the 50 fly and third in the 50 back, and Veronique DiBlasio came in second on the 50 back.
“The 13/14 group was really a remarkable group, they are a great representation of our team,” said Uchrin.
“It is a large combination of summer swimmers and club swimmers who came together with Susannah Tuder, Ella Caddeau, Cameron Davis, Veronique DiBlasio, and Rebecca Della Rocca. They really put on a show with some incredible margins.”
The team’s older girls also put on a good show as Maddie Schwimmer took fourth in the 18-and-under 50 fly while Emily Becker was sixth in the 50 back and Elizabeth Shwe placed 10th in the 50 back.
“Maddie Schwimmer, Elizabeth Shwe, and Emily Becker showed great leadership throughout the whole season and they swam really hard at PASDAs,” said Uchrin.
“It was Elizabeth’s last year because she graduated; it was great to see her go out there and have success.”
Success on the boys’ side for the Bluefish started with the squad’s younger swimmers. Brian Krol took third in the PASDA boys’ six-and-under 25 back and fourth in the 25 free while Mathew Krol was third in the 25 free and fourth in the 25 back. David Brophy won the boys’ 8-and-under 25 free and was third in the 25 fly.
“In the 6-and-unders, Matthew and Ryan Krol did a great job,” said Uchrin.
“The 8-and-under boys was a really, really deep group. You can see that in the relays and a standout in particular was David Brophy, who went and won that 25 free. He had a great swim.”
In the 10-and-under boys’ group, Brett Torgerson took fourth in the 25 free with Martin Brophy coming in fourth in the 25 back, Matthew Baglio taking third in the 25 fly, and Ben Walden finishing seventh in the 25 breast.
“I would give a shout out in the 10-and-under boys to Brett Torgerson, another one who has been with our team for a long time, along with Martin Brophy and Ben Walden,” said Uchrin.
Peter Knigge and Julian Velazquez came up big for the 12-and-under boys at the PASDA meet with Knigge taking second in the 50 breast and fifth in the 50 free and Velazquez taking second in the 50 back and fourth in the 100 IM.
“Peter Knigge and Julian Velazquez were standouts,” said Uchrin. “That group of boys had a blast working together all summer, they stuck together so that was fun to see.”
The 14-and-under boys had a lot of fun, with Brandon DeGrezia winning the 50 fly and taking third in the 50 back, Calvin Ristad coming in second in both the 50 breast and 50 fly, Gefen Bar-Cohen placing third in the 50 back and fifth in the 50 free, and Jason Kratzer finished sixth in the 50 free and seventh in the 50 fly.
“Gefen Bar-Cohen, Calvin Ristad, Jason Kratzer, and Brandon DeGrezia, that is a group with a lot of history in Bluefish swimming,” said Uchrin.
“They had some really tough competition this season but they went and they swam as hard as they could at PASDAs. Brian, Jason, Calvin, and Gefen worked together to put on the best show that they could and it was a great season for them.”
Stephen Kratzer and Dylan Torrance led the way for a superb corps of 18-and-under boys swimmers. Former Princeton High standout Kratzer placed first in the 50 free and 50 fly while Torrance prevailed in the 50 back and 100 IM.
“They are an incredible group; I have no problem saying that they are the absolute best in the association,” asserted Uchrin, who got another first from Eric Liu in the 50 breast.
“Their leadership reflects so well upon the other groups in our team. They look up to these guys. Dylan Torrance and Stephen Kratzer ended up being co-MVPs for PASDA; they were both on two record-setting relays along with Jake McBride and Eric Liu. They set the medley and the free relay record and they took every individual event combined. Stephen finished his Bluefish career so well, winning by just a couple of fractions of a second but he managed to take first overall in both of his events.”
While seeing his swimmers getting firsts and setting records was great, Uchrin was more impressed by the way they enjoyed themselves in the process.
“The better measure is the amount of fun we had while doing it,” said Uchrin.
“After every home meet, we go over to get some pizza together. On Fridays, we take out the lanes and play games. We had sharks and minnows in the dive well; the history on that game for the Bluefish goes beyond when I was born. The team traditions are a great part of summer swimming. It was an amazing season and it was a lot of fun. It is worth all of the effort and all of the time.”
Uchrin sees more good seasons ahead for the Bluefish. “We have such a great foundation, we have so many kids who end up coming back every year,” said Uchrin.
“We want to take it to the next step, wherever that may be. If that means we need to try to improve our facility even more, that is what we will do. We will do whatever it takes to keep this success going and I feel really confident that will be in a very good place moving forward.”