August 8, 2018

Emphasis on Fun Stoked Competitive Fire As CP Bluefish Dominated PASDA Meet

SHARP PERFORMANCE: Community Park Bluefish swimmer Serena Sharpless displays her breaststroke form in a race this summer. Sharpless starred for the 18-and-under girls as the Bluefish took first in Division 1 at the Princeton-Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) championship meet at the John Witherspoon Middle School pool on  July 23-24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although the Community Park Bluefish swim team rolled to another undefeated dual meet season in Division 1 PASDA action this summer, the squad outdid itself at the league’s championship meet.

The Bluefish, who have been undefeated in dual meets since 2015, rolled up 3,934.50 points in winning the Division 1 competition, nearly doubling the 2,030 scored by the runner-up Lawrenceville Swim Association.

Even Bluefish head coach Mike Uchrin was taken aback by how his swimmers performed at the meet, which was held the John Witherspoon Middle School pool from July 23-24.

“We blew away expectations; I was optimistic because it was in Princeton, but one thing that worried me was that we were stuck indoors,” said Uchrin, who is in his fourth season guiding the program.

“That is not what summer swimming is about; you want to be outside. We were at Witherspoon and because of the environment, it tended to be hot and humid on deck which created some challenges for us, getting the kids ready to roll and hyped up and not having them too tired.”

But with the program’s emphasis on keeping things fun for its 240 competitors, the Bluefish swimmers rolled through the PASDA competition.

“The more fun the kids have, the more fired up they are to compete on behalf of the team and the success is a byproduct of that,” said Uchrin.

“It comes with having an amazing coaching staff alongside the swimmers at every level and being able to rely on them to work with those kids so they get that individual attention so they can improve. We have kids from all different kinds of backgrounds come together.”

Two of the top kids on the girls side came from one family as Mia Bitterman starred in the six-and-under group while older sister, Zoe, won the 25-yard freestyle and the 25 butterfly in the 10-and-unders.

“The Bitterman sisters are establishing a little bit of a Bluefish dynasty,” said Uchrin.

“Mia finished in the top three in the six-and-under events  in the freestyle and backstroke, which was great to watch. All year, she has been so steady in those events. Zoe Bitterman was the PASDA MVP for the 10-and-unders.”

The rest of 10-and-under girls, which included Julia Godfrey, Annie Flanagan, Ellie Krol, Anna Winters, and Vivian Lee, were steady, placing first and second in the 100 free relay and taking first and third in the 100 medley relay.

“It is a very deep group and all season long, the relays that came out of that group was just phenomenal,” added Uchrin.

“If you look at the relay results for the 10-and-under girls, it was really impressive what they were able to do. That was definitely one of our deepest groups.”

The 12-and-under girls proved to be a force, featuring Piper Dubow, the winner of the 50 breaststroke, Sabine Ristad, second in the 100 individual medley and third in the 50 butterfly, along with Kyleigh Tangen and Audrey Wilhelm.

“That was likely, collectively, our strongest group of all of our different groups,” asserted Uchrin.

“We had so many swimmers that really helped establish that to be such a reliable group for us. If you look at the 200 free relay alone, that relay won every single dual meet and won the PASDA championships by 12 seconds. That is an incredible feat for them to do that.”

Bluefish stalwarts Abby Walden, Emily Smith, and Alexandra Cherry paced the 14-and-under group.

“Those girls came back and they were tremendous all year,” said Uchrin. “There were times in dual meets when they were maybe down in some individual events but whenever they came together for the relays, they just swam so hard for each other.”

In the 18-and-under group, Serena Sharpless, Cameron Davis, and Ella Caddeau piled up a lot of points as Sharpless took first in the 50 free and second in the 50 fly while Davis was second in the 50 free and third in the 100 IM and Caddeau took second in the 50 back and third in the 50 fly.

“Sharpless, Davis, and Caddeau have been with the team and they are great role models,” said Uchrin. “The younger kids all look to them. They help line them up and they get them to know their events.”

As for the Bluefish boys, Krol twins Matthew and Brian gave the 8-and-under group a great lift. Matthew took first in the 25 breast and 25 fly while Brian won the 25 back and took second in the 25 free.

“They are the most fun to watch, they have so much fun when they do it,” said Uchrin.

“I see them cheering for their teammates and jumping up and down. I think the Krol brothers and that 8-and-under boys group may have the best spirit on the team, they have so much fun.”

The team’s 12-and-under boys had a lot of fun at the PASDA meet as Coll Wight won the 50 back and the 100 IM while Matthew Baglio took second in the 50 fly and fourth in the 50 free and Martin Brophy placed third in the 50 fly and third in the 50 free and Kent Kyle finished second in the 100 IM and third in 50 breast.

“We actually had a ton of those 11-12 boys that all came together,” said Uchrin.

“We had a number of new faces in that group, which was great with Coll being one of them coming on board. We also had some veterans in Matt Baglio and Marty Brophy. That was a great group, they had strong swims. Coll was definitely on for us at the PASDA championships.”

Andrew Lenkowsky led the way for the 14-and-under boys, posting a pair of victories.

“Lenkowsky won the 100 IM and 50 free; it was a deep group that all pushed each other,” said Uchrin.

“It was another group that we had longtime Bluefish families like [Paul] Lacava and [Julian] Velazquez. It stays with the fact that we like to have fun but push each other and stick together.”

The 18-and-under boys showed a lot of depth as Dylan Torrance won the 50 back and took fourth in the 100 IM with Philip Lacava taking second on the 50 free and fourth in the 50 fly, Charles Yandrisevits finishing fourth in the 50 free and fifth in the 100 IM, Karl Lackner taking fourth in the 50 free and sixth in the 100 IM, Calvin Ristad placing second in the 50 breast and third in the 50 free, and Owen Tennant taking third in the 50 breast and fourth in the 100 IM.

“We have a number of 15-and-over boys who have stuck with the sport for a long time,” said Uchrin.

“There are a lot of teams that can’t field relays in that age group and we had multiple relays. It speaks to the kids who want to come back and compete. We had Dylan Torrance, Karl Lackner, and Charlie Yandrisevits, who all were all seniors for us this year and have been with the team for a long time. They are graduating. It was great to see them go out there and have some really close races.”

For Uchrin, it has been great to be involved in a program that has become such an institution on the local summer sports scene.

“This was my fourth year and I am seeing what it means to the community,” said Uchrin.

“I have had families come through and say that they were Bluefish back when they were children 20 years ago. We have records going back all the way to the early ‘70s. It is really a fixture in the community, and it is something that the kids look forward to every year.”