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Vol. LXII, No. 8
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
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WATERWORKS: Princeton High senior boys’ swimming star Tim Perkins displays his backstroke form. Last Thursday, Perkins placed second in the 100 back as fourth-seeded PHS fell 101-69 at No. 1 Lawrence in the Public B Central Jersey sectional semifinal.

Perkins Works Hard Until the Bitter End as PHS Boys’ Swim Team Falls in States

Bill Alden

Tim Perkins sat on the deck in exhaustion after swimming the opening leg in the final relay last Thursday for the Princeton High boys’ swimming team in its sectional semifinal meet at Lawrence High.

Although powerful Lawrence had already clinched the meet by the time Perkins toed the starting block in the 400 free relay, the senior star was determined to give his best effort.

“We’re going to go out with a bang,” said Perkins, who helped PHS place first in the relay as they fell 101-69 to the Cardinals.

“Just because we aren’t going to win the meet doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to try hard. Being a good sportsman and a good athlete means you never quit even if you are going to lose.”

For Perkins, those last four laps were the culmination of the team’s focus on the mental aspect of competition.

“Ever since we started training for the post season half the training has been in the pool and other half has been mentally,” said Perkins.

“We’ve come a long way in terms of working out without complaining that the workout is hard or saying I don’t think that we can’t beat the other team.”

Team captain Perkins and co-captain Brad Dewey have gone out of their way to set a serious tone for the Little Tigers.

“We’re all a bunch of teenagers so we have had to stop us from messing around all the time,” said Perkins.

“As a captain you have to set an example just to let everyone know without telling them what’s going on and what are we supposed to be doing right now.”

In Perkins’ view, doing what he was supposed to do meant giving his best effort against Lawrence.

“The score is not really a big deal; I thought we could give them a run for their money,” added Perkins, who finished second in both the 50 free and 100 backstroke races, getting touched out in both events.

“We definitely showed up today and we made them work for it. There were a lot of really close races today.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand liked the way his team pushed the Cardinals as the meet was tied 31-31 after four events.

“I think today the idea was that we were swimming against a team we were quite familiar with,” said Hand, who got a victory in the 200 individual medley from Alex Zantal and a win in the 200 medley relay.

“We expected them to be ready and it was a great opportunity for us to finish hard and see how fast we are. In that sense we couldn’t have asked any more of the guys. They did everything they could in the pool today.”

Hand believed that his team did everything it could over the course of the season to reach its potential. “The coaches are very pleased with our team,” asserted Hand.

“We improved enough during the season to earn a decent seed in the states with a small team and a relatively inexperienced team. They really took on the challenges of training and the challenges of team building, figuring out over the course of the season how strong their commitment was going to be. We kept getting better in all of those dimensions.”

A key factor in that development was the leadership provided by Perkins and Dewey. “They are two of the least egotistical fellows I have met in high school sports,” said Hand.

“When Bob Bradley was the university soccer coach, he used to talk about honest athletes. On the soccer field, that meant guys who always hustled back on defense. In the swimming world, I think that has to do with how you take every minute of every training session across a season and then extend that across an entire career. That’s what we got from those guys; their leadership was extraordinary.”

In Hand’s view, that leadership had an impact of his team’s younger swimmers.

“We don’t have a big nucleus coming back but we do have a nucleus coming back that can grow from this year’s experience,” said Hand, whose team ended the season with a 7-6 record.

“That is going to bring the commitment of sustaining the idea of excellence into next year. They will need to take responsibility for self improvement but also take responsibility for what the team turns out to be. We want all of the kids to be fit regardless of what they are doing in the offseason.”

Perkins, for his part, believes that swimming with PHS has helped him become a much more responsible person.

“It’s been such a growing experience with swimming,” asserted Perkins.

“It has affected my life socially, mentally, and physically. It’s given me more determination; I have become a better athlete. Mr. Hand has taught me to view things much differently than I would have if I had never swum for this team.”

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