February 24, 2021

Thriving in its First Virtual Meet of Season, PHS Swimming Cruises Past Hamilton West

DAN THE MAN: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Daniel Baytin churns to victory in the 200 freestyle last Wednesday as PHS opened its 2021 season with a 134-36 win over Hamilton West in a coed meet. The Tigers have a virtual meet against Ewing scheduled for the week of March 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Even though its season has started late and there are COVID-19 protocols to follow at the pool, there is still plenty of spirit on deck for the Princeton High swimming program.

“First and foremost, I am glad and very fortunate that we even have a season,” said PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz, noting that the team is following strict protocols at practice with limits on how many swimmers can be in the pool at one time and athletes masking whenever they are not in the water.

“That is the biggest thing, they are all enjoying just being together. Yes, it is not the same but you are away from a computer screen, you are getting to be around your friends. Swimming has brought more of a sense of normalcy, it is that aspect of having that physical interaction with other people. They are really happy that they are still getting to be with their friends.”

The swimmers are certainly happy to get the chance to train and compete.

“They are still getting to race,” said Misiewicz. “A lot of club teams are strapped for time and pool availability as well too, so, the fact that we are consistently swimming every day after school and Saturday mornings has been good.”

Last Wednesday, PHS excelled in its first race of the year, topping Hamilton 134-36 in a coed meet. It marked the program’s first virtual meet which entailed each team swimming separately at their pool and then sharing times to calculate the score.

The Tiger boys’ team dominated the competition, taking first in the 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay, and the 400 free relay. Individually, sophomore Daniel Baytin placed first in both the 200 free and the 100 breaststroke while senior Owen Tennant was victorious in the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke. Junior Alexander Shaw prevailed in the 50 free and sophomore Julian Velazquez took first in the 100 butterfly.

“It is still a learning process for sure, we have only had one of them,” said Misiewicz, reflecting on the virtual procedure.

“Every school was given the option for meets. You could swim every Tuesday and Thursday. So the route we decided to go was that Wednesdays are going to be our meet days. We will make our lineups, we will swim on Wednesday and then that will count for our Tuesday meet as well as our  Thursday meet. Hamilton West was our Tuesday meet and they did swim on Tuesday night and we swam on Wednesday afternoon. On Wednesday night, the Hamilton coach Mary Kanoc and I met on Zoom and we shared our lineups and times and went through the meet and scored it out together.”

Even without opponents in adjacent lanes at the
Princeton Unified Middle School pool, the Tigers still competed hard.

“We still swam in our odd lanes 3-5-7, I think it worked,” said Misiewicz.

“In a lot of races, they were pushed by each other. I told them that is what it is going to have to be. You have to push each other, you have to push yourself. Even the club kids who are used to getting all of these meets, they are not getting all of these opportunities so they really need to take advantage of every race they get.”

With the boys’ team only having 13 members, its swimmers will get the opportunity to swim in a lot of events.

“Having small numbers on the guys team stinks but the positive is that they are very versatile,” said Misiewicz.

“A lot of the guys that we have can do a wide range of events. The other good thing too with only having one meet a week is that they are going to swim a lot of different events throughout the season.”

After not joining the PHS program until the last few weeks of the 2019-20 campaign, sophomore star Baytin figures to make a big impact for the Tigers this winter.

“He is back,” said Misiewicz. “Having Dan back with us from the beginning is great.”

Having senior stalwart Tennant back for his final campaign is also great for PHS.

“Owen just always brings that positive attitude and mindset,” said Misiewicz.

“He is someone that really can swim anything and everything from the 50 freestyle all the way to the 500, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and IM. He will really do anything. He has always said that, even in his freshman year, whatever you need me to do coach. As a coach that is the ideal athlete that you want on your team. They are going to get in and race and put in their all no matter what event you put them in.”

Misiewicz is depending on a trio of veterans, senior Will Murray, junior Shaw, and sophomore Velazquez, to give their all.

“Will is one of our top sprinters in the 50 free, 100 free, and the butterfly,” said Misiewicz.

“Alex is another sprint guy. Julian will do butterfly, backstroke, IM and even sprints. His 100 free has gotten very good as well.”

The return of senior Andy Liu gives PHS another top performer.

“We have him back, he is healthy this year,” said Misiewicz of Liu.

“He had a little bit of an arm injury in the middle of last season. We lost him towards the middle and to the end of the season. He did a lot of rehab. He has built up his strength and his training. He is looking good.”

The addition of freshmen Henry Xu and Alvin Tien strengthens the Tiger lineup.

“Henry is another good kid to have, he is a quality breaststroker,” said Misiewicz.

“He is very talented. He does the 200 breast in club which is not a high school event; I told him we would be using him in a lot of different places. Alvin is very tall. He surprised me a lot, he swam the 100 back and the IM on Wednesday and he was up there with Owen and Julian.”

While PHS may not have a lot of depth, Misiewicz believes the squad has the quality to surprise some foes.

“We have seven or eight solid swimmers, you can do some damage with that many swimmers,” said Misiewicz, whose team has a virtual meet against Ewing scheduled for the week of March 1.

“There are solid relays that build up and almost all of your first and second lanes for every individual event are solid.”