(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

FAMILY TIES: Hannah Matheson of Community Park Bluefish churns through the water last week. Matheson, whose father, Brent, competed for the Bluefish, upheld her family name in style at the Princeton-area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) championship meet. Matheson was named as the Most Valuable Swimmer in the 12 and under girls category along with Sarah Lloyd of the Brooktree club. Matheson placed first in her age group in the Division I competition in the 50-yard freestyle, the 50 butterfly, and the 100 individual medley.

Matheson Stars at PASDA Championships, Exemplifying CP Bluefish's Family Feeling

Bill Alden

For Hannah Matheson, swimming for the Community Park Bluefish is a family tradition.

"My dad [Brent] and almost all of my uncles swam for the Bluefish," said Matheson. "My mom has influenced me too; she says 'you can do this,' and so does my family and friends."

Matheson certainly did her family name proud last week at the Princeton-area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) championship meet.

The blonde-haired Matheson was named as the PASDA Most Valuable Swimmer in the 12 and under girls category along with Sarah Lloyd of the Brooktree club. In earning that honor, Matheson placed first in her age group in the Division I competition in the 50-yard freestyle, the 50 butterfly, and the 100 individual medley in addition to helping the Bluefish to a win in the 200 medley relay.

Getting the MVS award was the culmination of a long quest for Matheson. "I really wanted to be the MVS at the PASDA championship," said Matheson. "I've been close a couple of times. I've already got the award up in my bedroom."

While Matheson was thrilled with her individual accolades, she said those accomplishments come in the context of her desire to help the Bluefish.

"I want to win as many races as possible," added Matheson, who will be entering seventh grade this fall. "I just try to do my best and get points for the team."

In the PASDA meet, Matheson did her best in the freestyle. "I think I was proudest of my 50 free," said Matheson, who swims year-round for the Eastern Express team. "The 50 fly is my event but I dropped my time in the 50 free at the PASDA meet. I also lowered the CP record."

CP Bluefish head coach Greg Hand was proud of how Matheson competed at the PASDA meet. "Hannah had a great meet, she is a bubbly, optimistic person whose whole outlook toward swimming is one that will carry her for a long time" said Hand, whose team placed fourth overall in Division I in the PASDA meet.

"I don't think you are ever going to see her get down about a specific performance; she just always races hard. When a race is behind her, she's on to the next thing. At the same time, for her age, she seems to be a student of the sport and she has certainly grown up a lot over the last few years."

Hand saw spirited efforts across the board all summer long from his swimmers. "It's a lot of fun to just get in and swim hard at these meets and try to crank out some good individual times and relay times," said Hand.

"This is an environment in which the principal enjoyment comes from being together with other kids who enjoy summer league swimming. It's a change of pace for the kids who are in year-round swimming programs."

Matheson and her family exemplifies the continuity that has become a hallmark of the Bluefish program. "I think that every summer swimming program or club has its own magic and reasons why it endures year after year, even across generations in some cases," asserted Hand.

"I think the magic of CP is that this is one of those institutions in Princeton where everybody is welcome and all sorts of people take part. It gives a lot back. In summer swimming, you can spend the K-12, the pre-college experience as a member of the club."

One of the younger members of the club, William Stange, gave the Bluefish a lot in the PASDA meet. Stange was named as the meet's MVS in the 10-and-under classification, winning the 25 free, 25 fly, and the 100 IM.

"Will is a very energetic person both in and out of the pool," said Hand. "He loves to compete. He is a great relay swimmer. He can be on a relay that is behind by almost an entire lap and he will nonetheless go after it as if he has every chance to win for the team. He is competitive but a lot of fun to be around."

Another key competitor for the Bluefish was Megan Lydzinski, who was the meet MVS in the 14-and-under girls along with Carly Gurick of Penn Brook.

"This is Megan's first year with the Bluefish, she is very talented for her age," said Hand of Lydzinski, who won the 50 free and the 50 breast and placed third in the 100 IM.

"She is very technically proficient. She has gone under 25 seconds a few times in the 50-yard free; that is a real elite time."

Other standouts for the Bluefish included Robin Carter and Ingrid Lillis in the 8-and-under girls, Madeline Deardorff in the 10-and-under girls, Ceara Bowman and Serena Deardorff in the 12-and-under girls, Andrew Field in the 10-and-under boys, Peter Kalibat in the 12-and-under boys, June Zhang in the 14-and-under girls and Alex Field, Michael Leddy, and Peter Deardorff in the 14-and under boys.

The Bluefish swimmers, though, are urged to focus on more than just improving their times by the coaches. "In a sense, this is the village helping to raise the children," asserted Hand.

"They learn to work out, how to take care of themselves, and how to train a little bit. They learn to understand the importance of a disciplined approach and paying attention. They are taught and asked to practice the best sportsmanship. You might see a six-year-old shaking hands with an opponent after a race for their first time. Hopefully they will do that the rest of their life."

Matheson, for her part, has embraced the sportsmanship ethic that is central to the Bluefish approach."I have the most competition when I'm racing my other friends from the Express who are on the other summer teams," said Matheson. "It's really fun to race each other. I'll race hard to beat my friends but I don't get mean about it."

The 12-year-old plans to be racing for a while. "I want to improve as a swimmer," asserted Matheson. "One of my bigger goals is to make the cuts for the Olympic trials someday."

No matter how far Matheson goes in the sport, she will have fond memories of her Bluefish experience.

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