Highlighted by First-Ever County Team Crown, Hun Swimming Enjoyed Breakthrough Season
ABBIE ROAD: Hun School swimmer Abbie Danko heads to victory in the 200 individual medley at the Mercer County Championships in late January. Junior star Danko helped the Hun girls’ squad enjoy a breakthrough season as it took first at the county meet for the program’s first-ever team title at the competition and then excelled at state Prep meet, the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) Invitational and the Eastern Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Boasting a core of six standouts, the Hun School girls’ swimming team put the program on the map this year.
Showing their talent and versatility, Hun’s hardy crew of junior Marie-Eve Hebert, sophomore Becca Della Rocca, junior Abbie Danko, senior Izzy Peel, junior Grace Davis, and freshman Hannah Davis cruised to the team title at the Mercer County Championships, earning the school’s first-ever county swimming crown.
Building on that effort, the Raiders went on to excel at the state Prep meet, the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) Invitational, and the Eastern Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships.
Noting that the program didn’t have enough swimmers in the past to field separate boys’ and girls’ teams, Hun head coach Joan Nuse was proud of what her female crew accomplished.
“It was so nice to be able to have a girls’ team and then to have them do so well,” said Nuse, whose team went undefeated in dual meet competition. “It was very exciting.”
As the season unfolded, the Raiders kept producing exciting performances.
Hun placed fourth at the Prep meet with Hebert taking third in the 200 freestyle and Peel placing third in the 100 breaststroke. At the MAPL meet, the Raiders placed fourth as Della Rocca won the 100 butterfly and Danko took first in the 200 individual medley.
Culminating the season at the Easterns, Hun took 13th of the 31 teams that scored points. Peel led the way with a sixth place in the 100 breast and making the finals in the 50 free. Hebert advanced to the finals in the 100 and 200 free while Danko was a finalist in the 100 back and 200 IM and Della Rocca made the finals in the 100 butterfly.
Hun made the finals in all three relays at Easterns with the 200 medley relay consisting of Danko, Peel, Della Rocca, and Hannah Davis, the 200 free relay including Peel, Grace Davis, Hannah Davis, and Hebert, and the 400 free relay featuring Grace Davis, Danko, Della Rocca, and Hebert.
In addition to turning heads in local swimming circles, the Raiders garnered attention on campus.
“Not only did we let other people in the area know that we have a team, we let our own school know,” said Nuse.
“They don’t ever see us because we aren’t there; it was nice that people were aware that we were there. We actually had some members of the faculty who came out to states which was really nice. It was nice to have people talking to us about swimming; it was much more out there.”
Taking sixth place at the 100 breast at the Easterns was a nice finish for senior transfer Peel.
“She did great for us; it was really exciting at Easterns, she made the ‘A’ final and they make a really big deal about it,” said Nuse.
“For her to come in and do what she did was awesome. She really brought a lot with her because she came in second in counties in both the 50 and the breaststroke but she is a really good backstroker as well so we could use her various places.”
The arrival of junior standout Hebert, who came to the school from Canada, proved to be a big plus in and out of the water for the team.
“Marie-Eve is great as a swimmer and is great as a person,” said Nuse. “She brings such a wonderful attitude with her and puts in a lot of effort everywhere she goes. Everyone on the team just loves her.”
In Nuse’s view, the girls’ squad has great prospects going forward.
“We have a really good group,” said Nuse. “It is weird to be thinking about the fact that Abbie and Grace Davis are going to be seniors. They have been here when the team started to come up so they are really a big part of why this has happened.”
Good things also happened this winter for the boy’s team as it lost only one dual meet. “The boys did great, they really have some along,” said Nuse.
“In the past, they have been helped by having the club girls with them. This year they were totally on their own. We only had one club swimmer on the boys and they just put in the effort in practice everyday and did a wonderful job. They have a great attitude.”
Post-graduate star Arturo Rodrigues gave the Raiders a special effort day in, day out.
“Arturo did sprints and fly but he could really do anything,” said Nuse
“In our regular meets, I had him swim the IM. We took him and Josh [Nguyen] to the Easterns so they got to have that experience. He is just such a nice person, he has that great attitude. Every time he went out there he wanted to improve and he was just so supportive of everyone else.”
The Hun boys should keep improving as they welcome back some some key performers.
“The main people we have back are Josh, Andrew Petty, and Jake DiAndrea,” said Nuse.
“They will be seniors. Gabe Huang is a freshman who did really well for us too as did George Bailey, who just finished his sophomore season.”
Hun also boasted star divers in freshman Rowland Lawver and Beth Evaldi, who rounded out the squad.
“They train on their own, we don’t have a dive coach in the program,” said Nuse of Lawver who took second at Easterns with Evaldi finishing seventh.
“They do have to come to six practices with us to be able to dive officially as part of Hun. They piled up a lot of points; it was great having them.”
Looking ahead, Nuse believes the program can keep piling up wins.
“As long as we have the numbers stay where they are or continue to improve, we should be doing well,” said Nuse.
“It is hard every year because you have a certain number of kids who don’t come back. I already know a couple of eighth graders who I teach who swim and are going to be coming in and that is really nice.”