Hun Girls’ Swimming Earns 1st County Crown As Junior Transfer Hebert Makes Immediate Impact
CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: Hun School girls’ swimmer Marie-Eve Hebert heads to victory in the 200-meter freestyle at the Mercer County Championships last Saturday. Junior Hebert also prevailed in the 400 free, helping Hun to the team title, its first county crown in program history. The Raiders piled up 207 points in taking the championship, with WW/P-South coming in second at 175. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Standing in the starting blocks before swimming the anchor leg on the girls’ 400-meter freestyle relay last Saturday at the Mercer County Championships, Marie-Eve Hebert gave each of her arms a slap, readying herself for a big effort.
The Hun School junior transfer exploded into the water at the WW/P-North pool, churning out a blistering swim that helped the Raiders take second in the race.
That performance put the finishing touch on a remarkable day for the Hun girls as they earned the first county team title in program history. The Raiders piled up 207 points in taking the crown with WW/P-South coming in second at 175.
Hebert also came through in the individual events, winning both the 200 and 400 free races with junior Abbie Danko winning the 200 individual medley and placing fourth in the 100 backstroke, sophomore Becca Della Rocca taking first in the 100 butterfly and finishing second in the 400 free, and senior Isabelle Peel placing second in both the 50 free and 100 breaststroke.
For Hebert, a native of Quebec, Canada, getting her first taste of the county meet left some indelible memories.
“We are new here and people don’t know us, so it was great to swim the best we can in the prelims and the finals and just give all we have,” said Hebert, who speaks with a slight French accent. “The ambience here is crazy. I never saw that before, it was amazing.”
Although Hebert was under the weather, that didn’t keep her from storming to victory in the 200 free.
“Because I was sick, I wasn’t very confident,” said Hebert, who clocked a winning time of 2:10.63. “From the start I was behind and I was thinking ‘let’s go Marie, we can do this’ and I finished first and it was wonderful.”
Later in the meet, Hebert locked up in a wonderful duel with teammate Della Rocca in the 400 free. Swimming out of lane six, Hebert edged Della Rocca for the title as they placed one-two in the event.
“I was ranked sixth and it was in my mind that I did great in the 200 free, so why can I not do great in the 400 free too?” said Hebert, who came in at 4:34.43. “I gave it all I had. It is very competitive with Becca, I like it.”
In the 400 free relay, the meet’s final event, Hun was determined to go out with a bang.
“We knew we were points ahead of other teams and we really wanted to keep our advantage,” said Hebert. “We were ‘let’s go win this even if we are not first, let’s go do our best.’”
In the wake of that race, Hebert and her teammates celebrated on the deck, enjoying the spoils of their breakthrough victory.
“This is the first thing we have won,” said Hebert.“This season has been great. We have won every other meet so winning, seeing our medals and the T-shirts, and taking pictures was great.”
Making the move to Hun has been a great experience for Hebert. “I was visiting my brother here for the school and the hockey,” said Hebert, whose older brother, Guillaume, starred for the Hun boys’ hockey team and graduated from the school last spring.
“The Hun campus was amazing to me. This is like Harry Potter, it is like a dream for me, so let’s try to swim here. I know that in the United States, swimming is very competitive. Everyone here has been friendly.”
Hun head coach Joan Nuse wasn’t sure how her squad would stack up at the highly competitive county meet.
“We were hoping to do well, we were just really excited to be here because we haven’t been here in quite a while so we didn’t know for sure,” said Nuse, noting that Hun hadn’t entered the meet previously during her five years guiding the program.
“The girls were going to go out and do their best. It was nice to see them do well. No matter what they tried really hard, and worked hard in every single race. You can’t ask for anything more.”
The back-to-back wins by Danko in the 200 IM and Hebert in the 200 free early in the meet set a positive tone for the Raiders.
“That was definitely a good start to things,” said Nuse. “The fact that they both qualified really well gave them a little bit of confidence.”
The battle between Hebert and Della Rocca in the 400 free was definitely a highlight of the day for Hun.
“Marie-Eve didn’t have the greatest day yesterday (in the prelims) because she hasn’t been feeling well, so to me that just told me the heart that she has and the fact that she is just really a competitor,” said Nuse.
“It is hard to go from lane six. The fact that she and Becca swim together in a lot of our meets is nice. They knew each other and what they were going to be able to do.”
In addition to doing great things in the pool, Hebert has helped foster team unity for the Raiders.
“Marie-Eve is just such a nice person too,” said Nuse. “She is the first person in the meet who will be over cheering for the kids in lane six or comforting somebody who might be upset about how they did. Being a good person is so valuable and she just adds so much with that.”
The team’s gritty performance in the 400 free relay was something to cheer about.
“That was definitely exciting to see; we were behind and really rallied,” said Nuse.
“It was great, some of them didn’t even realize when they finished that they had come in second. They were ‘wait, what did we do.’”
The combination of Peel and Danko helped Hun come through. “Isabelle was really a contributor; she really helped the relays too,” said Nuse,
“She has definitely been an asset to the team. Abbie is Abbie, she has been around for a long time. I have known her since seventh grade. She is a great member of the team with a really great attitude.”
In reflecting on the title, Nuse was taken aback by what her swimmers accomplished.
“We have never done anything like this; we have never been known for our swimming,” said Nuse, whose boys’ squad placed 12th at the meet.
“We have to go off campus to practice, so to have this happen is amazing. It is really good for the girls to have put this in and show that Hun does have a swimming program.”
With the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and state Prep championship meets taking place in early February, Nuse is looking for some more amazing efforts.
“It should be good,” said Nuse. “It is a lot of intense swimming in a pretty short time, so will have to see how it goes.”
Hebert, for her part, believes the Raiders will keep up the intensity. “I hope my health will be better,” said Hebert. “Every time, we are getting a little better. All the girls are getting experience, so that is good.”