Returning to Action After Losing 2020 Season to Pandemic, CP Bluefish Swimmers Displayed Dominance, Deepened Bonds
MAKING A SPLASH: Ella Caddeau displays her form in a meet this season for the Princeton High girls’ swim team. Over the summer, Caddeau starred for the Community Park Bluefish swim team. In the season-ending Cicada Classic in late July, Middlebury College-bound Caddeau placed first in the women 15 and over 50-yard backstroke and 50 butterfly and helped the 200 freestyle relay and 200 medley relay both place first. The Bluefish finished first of seven teams in the overall standings at the meet, piling up 3,603.50 points with Country Pool Club Swim Team taking second at 1,761.50. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
After the 2020 season for the Community Park Bluefish swim team was canceled due to the pandemic, Mike Uchrin was apprehensive as the program returned to action this summer.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect after a year off where we had no league, no meets, or anything like that,” said Bluefish head coach Uchrin.
“It is a little bit of a mystery what is it going to look like as far as practices as far as who is going to be there and the number of kids. I was very anxious about it at the start of the season.”
Uchrin’s anxiety turned to joy as the Bluefish enjoyed a banner summer.
“It ended up culminating in a season where we came together more as a team than I think we ever had,” said Uchrin.
“It was a lot of fun. There was more team camaraderie than ever before in my seven years as a head coach.”
Getting back together after a year off sparked that sense of camaraderie.
“They were so excited to be able to see their friends,” said Uchrin.
“The social aspect was a big piece this year. That is what summer league is about, coming together with your friends, getting better at swimming and having a lot of fun. They were able to make some new friends, reconnect with old friends that maybe they hadn’t seen in a while. They did it all in a very safe manner, everything went very well as far as the health and safety concerns.”
Things went very well for the squad in Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) Division 1 dual meet competition. The Bluefish went 5-0, extending a long winning streak.
“We were able to go undefeated for a sixth season in a row so that was exciting,” said Uchrin.
“The kids were pumped for that. The dual season went very well. We didn’t have to do any full virtual meets, we did end up having to have half a virtual meet. We ended up having a lot of challenges as far as the weather. We started on July 6 and we ended up getting rained out there. We immediately ran out of rain dates so we kind of had to cram our dual meet season into about a two-and-half-week window.”
The season culminated with a Cicada Classic invitational meet held at the CP Pool in late July.
“PASDA came to the conclusion that they were going to do the championships for swimming virtually,” said Uchrin.
“As the season progressed, it became apparent that we would be able to pull something off with some of the teams and based on the number potentially open it up to more. That is how it evolved. At first we did it as an invitational with the other Division 1 teams and then from there, once we got those numbers, we were able to open it up to a few more teams. We had a lot of fun with it. The kids were able to come out and compete and do up to four swims. It went very smoothly and we were excited to at least offer that in-person invitational championship experience.”
Building on its dual meet success, the Bluefish had a lot of fun in the seven-team meet, finishing first in the overall standings, piling up 3,603.50 points with Country Pool Club Swim Team taking second at 1,761.50.
“We didn’t have any missed events, everyone had a high turnout,” said Uchrin. “As a result, we did well in the meet.”
Alexis Julian dominated events in the girls’ 8 and under division in the Cicada meet, finishing first in the 25-yard freestyle, 25 breaststroke, and 25 butterfly.
“All season long in dual meets Alexis was an absolute stalwart in that 8 and under girls’ group,” said Uchrin.
Johanna Kraft and Syann Priester led the way in the next age group.
“The 10 and under girls were a solid group effort, they were excellent on relays this season,” said Uchrin.
“Johanna and Syann both did very well, placing second in breast and second in back, respectively. Those were great swims.”
A program stalwart, Zoe Bitterman, starred in the girls’ 12 and under, taking first in the 50 butterfly and 100 individual medley.
“Zoe is a lifetime Bluefish and she really holds herself well,” said Uchrin.
“A lot of the younger swimmers on the team look up to swimmers like Zoe. She placed first in fly and she also took our team record by one one-hundredth.”
As for the 13-14 girls, Annie Flanagan and Sabine Ristad stood out with Flanagan placing first in the 50 free and 50 backstroke with Ristad winning both the 50 fly and 100 IM.
“Annie Flanagan and Sabine Ristad did fantastic this season, our 13-14 girls was one of our strongest groups,” said Uchrin.
“You look across between Annie and Sabine, they took the free, back, fly, and IM in our championship meet. The relay with Annie, Sabine, Scarlett Angelone, and Adriana Scanga was able to go and take our team record in the medley relay at a dual meet. That group was just so fast and so good. There were a lot of longtime, lifetime Bluefish.”
A trio of Bluefish, Ella Caddeau, Elena Nechay, and Piper Dubow, provided some fast swims for the women 15 and over group. Caddeau prevailed in the 50 back and 50 fly with Nechay winning the 50 free and 100 IM and Dubow taking first in the 50 breast. The Bluefish also won both the 200 free and medley relays.
“Ella Caddeau rewrote our 50 back team record; between Ella, Piper, Elena, all of the girls in our 15-and-over were so strong,” said Uchrin, whose older group also included Cameron Davis and Serena Sharpless.
“That speaks to the culture we have created here. In swimming, there is such a huge drop off as they get older. We have so many who have chosen to stay and come together with their friends. They know they will have fun, they know they will get a little better, and have an opportunity to compete.”
Lucas Julian had a lot of fun for the Bluefish at the Cicada meet in the boys’ 6 and under division, placing first in the 25 free and 25 back.
“Lucas is Alexis’ little brother; he did fantastic holding down that 6 and under group,” said Uchrin.
“He looks like he is having a blast every time. He really pushes it, he really goes. He won the 25 back by a full five seconds, that is a lifetime in swimming.”
Rei-Jhe Lee, Jacob Lutz, Jack Bagdadi, Nikhil Gregory, and Nicholas Weihe had a blast in the boys’ 8 and under group. Lee won the 25 butterfly and Bagdadi placed first in the 25 breast.
“That is another group where it was a group effort, we had a number of names that really stood out,” said Uchrin.
“Rei-Jhe, Jack, Nikhil, Nick, and Jacob were kids that came and swam really hard and really well. That was another group that had so much depth. We went 1-2-3 in breaststroke [with Gregory second and Weihe third].”
Seaver Gibbs stood out for the boys’ 10 and under division, taking second in the 25 back and fifth in the 25 free and helping the Bluefish win both the 100 free and 100 medley relays.
“That was another one where we were fantastic on relays,” said Uchrin.
“We are able to field such great relays. On the season we had 50 relays in the dual meets and we won 47. It speaks to our depth and our coaching. It is something I am very proud of.”
In the boys’ 12 & under group, Darren Ellwood had some good swims, taking second in the 50 back and fourth in the 100 IM.
“Darren is a longtime, lifetime Bluefish,” said Uchrin. “He was second in backstroke and part of the free relay that did so well. The 12 and under boys were doing their part, no doubt about it.”
David Brophy did his part for the 13-14 boys, taking second in the 50 fly and fourth in the 100 IM.
“David is a former PASDA MVP and is another longtime Bluefish,” said Uchrin.
“In that 13-14 group we swept the 200 free relay, they had another group effort that really came together.”
In the men 15 and over group, Andrew Lenkowsky, Paul Lacava, Lucas Gold, and Julian Velazquez came up big. Lenkowsky won the 50 free and took second in the 50 fly while Gold was second in the 50 back, Lacava took third in the 50 back, and Velazquez was fourth in the 50 free and fifth in the 50 fly.
“That group of four, they were dominant this season,” asserted Uchrin.
“Lenkowsky rewrote our record book here. He took our 50 free and 50 fly records. You are looking at names like Will Stange [former Princeton High and Cornell University standout]. They were fantastic. They are such a core group that has been together for so long. They are not done, they are all coming back next year. None of them are seniors yet. They were another one who broke our 200 free relay record.”
Breaking records became commonplace for the Bluefish this summer as the swimmers were thrilled to be competing again.
“Some seasons, I have one or two records that are broken,” said Uchrin.
“This season, we had 18 records broken. Everyone was pumped, everyone was excited to get back in the pool.”
While the records are nice, the main focus for Uchrin this season was getting as many swimmers as possible in the pool.
“We were able to field a team that was actually bigger that it was two years ago, we had over 220 swimmers which is fantastic,” said Uchrin.
“We were very fortunate to have as many lanes as we do and a large coaching staff of more than 10 coaches. Between those couple of things, we were able to maximize our time and get everybody involved. Anybody who wanted to swim was able to swim and that was a real goal.”