For Daniel Andronov, joining the Princeton High boys’ swimming team last year as a junior proved fortuitous on many levels.
The quiet Andronov, who transferred from Edison High, enjoyed the PHS team’s camaraderie and spirit on the deck. In the water, Andronov’s talent in the breaststroke helped PHS go undefeated on the way to its first-ever state Public B championship.
“The team wasn’t as strong at Edison so it was a big difference,” said Andronov.
“The other team wasn’t as large either. It is a very different environment. We approach meets more seriously. I think it is a very nice atmosphere.”
This winter, Andronov has developed deep bonds with his teammates. “I am not much of a social person so it takes me a while to get used to new environments and new people,” said Andronov.
“This year, I feel much more acquainted with the team and much more comfortable.”
Last Friday, Andronov showed his comfort level with high stakes competition as he helped top-seeded PHS defeat No. 2 Lawrence 118-52 in the Public B Central Jersey sectional final at the Neptune Aquatic Center.
The Little Tigers are slated to face Summit in the Public B semis on February 19 with the winner advancing to the championship meet on February 23 at The College of New Jersey.
Andronov placed second in both the 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke in the win over Lawrence. Individual victors for PHS in the meet included junior Will Stange in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, junior Colburn Yu in the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley, and junior Peter Kalibat in the 200 and 500 freestyle races.
“It is something that is always great for a program,” said Andronov, reflecting on the sectional title, which marked the fifth straight for the Little Tigers.
“It is a nice segue; it gives us a bit of confidence going into the next meets which are going to be the hardest meets we are going to have this season. It is a steppingstone for the state title.”
Even though PHS had topped Lawrence 115-55 in a regular season meeting, Andronov and his teammates weren’t overconfident coming into Friday’s meet.
“It gives you a bit of comfort knowing that you have beat them already,” said Andronov.
“But we try to take every team as though they are as fast or better than us and approach the team with the mentality that we need to swim as fast as we can.”
In picking up his two second-place finishes, Andronov had to swim through some fatigue.
“I have been a little tired from training,” said Andronov who competes with the X-Cel swim club.
“It is good to race as often as we do, it gives us confidence in the pool so we are not very nervous on days where we have big meets. It was good to get that experience. I was happy with the breaststroke but still feeling like training in the latter half of the race. I think it was pretty good.”
PHS head coach Greg Hand was happy to see his boys’ squad achieve a fifth straight sectional crown.
“I think of a program in terms of the kids who are in it at the moment so what it means to the program is almost entirely expressed in what it means to the kids who accomplished it,” said Hand, whose team improved to 15-0 with the victory over Lawrence.
“It is a program in the sense that we have had kids who have been here for four years and other kids who are just starting, so to be able to have that recreated again and again is a special thing. We are very fortunate to be able to have done it.”
PHS was certainly fortunate to have an addition like Andronov. “Daniel just joined us last year when he came to Princeton and has really shown himself to be a dedicated, team-oriented person,” said Hand.
“He is a person of relatively few words but the guys really like him. He just has great character; he loves to race. I think he has grown as a swimmer. He has definitely gotten a lot better since last year, he is consistently around one minute in the breaststroke and that is a great asset for a team.”
While Hand knows that his team is no lock to win a second straight title, he is confident it will keep getting better.
“We know that Tuesday is our toughest meet and we want to be at our best that day,” said Hand.
“Just like last year, we didn’t discover until Summit what we could do and we discovered an even deeper level when we got to the final. I won’t make any predictions; I think these guys are fighters. They love the sport, I think they really like each other and they are committed to working for each other.
Andronov, for his part, is confident that PHS will fight hard in its bid for a title repeat.
“I think it is something we can definitely accomplish,” said Andronov. “I think one part of it is supporting each other. When I started swimming, I didn’t have people cheering for me. Having people cheering for you really does actually make a difference. I think we need to come together as a team. I think we need to approach it with a confidence that we can do it and it is possible but we shouldn’t be too overconfident.”