August 18, 2021

Applying the Nassau Swim Spirit She Learned as a Child, Adlai-Gail Coached the Lemmings to Productive Season

IN GOOD FORM: Daniel Baytin displays his freestyle form in a race this season for the Princeton High boys’ swimming team. This summer, Baytin starred for the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings, taking first in the 50 breaststroke and second in the 100 individual medley at the Cicada Classic meet which culminated action this summer in the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Becca Adlai-Gail has risen through the ranks during her time with the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings.

Some 19 years ago, Adlai-Gail started competing for the swim team as a 4-year-old and joined the club’s diving team as well three years later.

She was a stalwart for both programs through elementary, middle school, and high school, also starring for the WW/P-North swim team and going to compete at the college level for Bryn Mawr.

Diversifying her involvement with the club in college, Adlai-Gail started serving as an assistant coach for the Lemmings. In 2020, she took the helm of the program but the team had no meets due to the pandemic, although it was able to have five weeks of practice.

This summer, Adlai-Gail was excited to guide the team through a Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA)  dual meet campaign and the season-ending Cicada Classic held at the Community Park pool.

“I definitely look forward to it every summer, I have always thought of Nassau as my second home,” said Adlai-Gail.

“Every summer it is just having the whole day there hanging out with friends when I was younger, being able to spend time with the life guards and do both of the teams. It was special to have that place. So now to be able to grow up and lead the kids to experience those same things is really awesome.”

It was awesome for the Lemmings to have PASDA meets this summer.

“They were so excited to be able to do more normal in-person meets and being able to see kids from other teams,” said Adlai-Gail.

“They were able to see the progress that they are making. You can practice so much and not really know how you are doing and not be able to see how you are improving. Being able to do the meets, you can see what your times are and how you are improving through the season and how you are improving from maybe two summers ago. That was really exciting.”

With a roster of about 50 swimmers, the Lemmings adopted an underdog mentality as they competed against clubs like Community Park Bluefish that have more that 200 swimmers.

“That was a big challenge, but the kids totally stepped it up,” said Adlai-Gail.

“They still had a lot of fun at the meets even though it was pretty intimidating going and seeing these teams that are three, four, five times the size of ours. It was still nice for them to just be able to get back in and compete and do their races.”

At the season-ending Cicada Classic held in late July, the Nassau swimmers rose to the occasion, taking sixth of seven clubs in the team standings at the meet but turning in some superb individual performances.

“We had a lot of really fast swims, it was really cool to see the kids’ times improve a lot, especially at that meet compared to the times they had going earlier in the season,” said Adlai-Gail of the competition which was won by the Bluefish.

“It really did feel like a championship meet, which a lot of the kids had never been able to experience. It was fun for them to just see there were so many kids for them to compete against and how it works with having a lot of different heats. A lot of the kids did really step it up and place really well in their individual races.”

Ida Zlotchew stepped up for Nassau in girls’ 6-and-under division at the Cicada meet, taking first in both the 25-yard freestyle and 25 backstroke.

“Ida is one of those ones who you say she is small but she is mighty,” said Adlai-Gail.

“She is super speedy. She is really fun to work with; she has a great energy so she is always ready for her races. We say OK we are going to have a little break now and she never wants to stop swimming. It is fun to see her go into the races and win over and over.”

In the girls’ 8-and-under group, Hannah Bellows brought some energy, finishing third in the 25 back and fourth in 25 butterfly while Charlotte Zimmer took sixth in 25 back and seventh in both the 25 free and 25 butterfly.

“Hannah was completely new to the team, she had never done a swim team,” said Adlai-Gail.

“She improved so much over the season, coming in not even knowing how to do butterfly and breaststroke and then doing awesome in those races. She is a great point scorer. Charlotte definitely has some speed in her there.”

Nava Brenner-Witten showed her speed in the girls’ 10-and-under, placing first in both the 25 back and 25 fly and coming in second in the 100 individual medley.

“Nava has been at Nassau a long time, I started giving her lessons when she like 4 years old and she has been on the team since she has been 5,” said Adlai-Gail.

“She also has a great energy. She is so compassionate with all of her teammates. She is cheering for everyone and works super hard in practice. You can totally see the results. Seeing her go into the meets and just win all of those races is really special.”

In the girls’ 12-and-under, Anna Terhaar proved to be special, taking first in the 50 free and 50 back and finishing  second in the 50 breast.

“Anna is one of the club swimmers,” said Adlai-Gail. “She shows up for the meets and always brings her best for us.”

As for the 15-and-over girls, two Nassau stalwarts, Kimberly Wei and Sophia Burton, showed their versatility. Wei finished sixth in the 50 back, seventh in the 50 breast, and 11th in the 50 fly while Burton was 10th in the 50 back, 13th in the 50 breast, and 14th in the 100 IM.

“Kim has also been on the team for a really long time, maybe since she was in the 8-and-under,” said Adlai-Gail.

“To have her returning every year is really great for keeping that Nassau spirit alive. She is always fast in the races. We had Kimmy, Sophia, and Emma Hopkins as our three 15-and-over girls who have all been on the team for a long time. It was good to have them return and lead the younger ones.”

Parker Ciancia led the way for the Lemmings in the boys’ 6-and-under, finishing fourth in the 25 free and third in the 25 back.

“Parker was awesome, this was his first year doing a real swim team,” said Adlai-Gail.

“He turned 7 in June so we thought he was supposed to be an 8-and-under. He was actually in 6-and-under because of the cut off for the birthday. He was practicing with the other 7- and 8-year-old boys and always keeping up with them.”

The boys’ 8-and-under group showed good depth as Peter Terhaar placed fifth in the 25 free and fourth in the 25 breast, Ned Lord took fifth in the 25 back, and Connor Shea finished third in the 25 fly. That trio, along with Lee Lord, placed first in the 100 free relay.

“We had a really solid relay for that age group when they were all able to come to the meets,” said Adlai-Gail.

“Peter is following in the footsteps of his sister, he is really super-fast. Connor  has been on the team for a few years now already and has been doing awesome with butterfly. He is a great little butterflyer for such a young age. Lee and Ned Lord are twins, they are always on those races together so it is fun to watch.”

The pair of Stephen Baytin and Garik Zlotchew starred for Nassau in the boys’ 10-and-under as Baytin placed second in the 25 free, second in the 25 breast, and second in the 100 IM while Zlotchew finished fourth in the 25 back, second in the 25 fly, and fourth in the 100 IM

“Garik and Stephen swim together on their club team year round,” said Adlai-Gail. “They are two of our really strong 10 and under boys.”

In the boys’ 12-and-under, Will Kovalick had a strong meet, placing fourth in the 50 fly, sixth in the 50 free, and 10th in the 50 breast.

“Will has been on the team for a while, I remember when he started doing swim lessons when he was 3 or 4,” said Adlai-Gail.

“He definitely helps us with those points in the 12-and-under boys.”

Tyler Cenci was a standout in the boys’ 13-14 group, taking fourth in the 50 breast, sixth in the 50 fly, and ninth in the 50 free.

“Tyler’s whole family is at the pool, they all have such great team spirit,” said Adlai-Gail.

“They all work so hard in practice, especially Tyler. He is one of those good point scorers in the meets.”

Princeton High standout Daniel Baytin starred in the boys’ 15-and-over division, placing first in the 50 breast and second in the 100 IM.

“Daniel always comes through for Nassau,” said Adlai-Gail.

“He has been on the team for so long. He returns every summer even though he has so much going on. He is such a competitor. He does X-Cel club swimming.”

Having veterans like Baytin helped the Lemmings get back up to speed this summer as the program welcomed some new swimmers.

“Even though we had that year off, we had so many returning swimmers who were familiar with and know how the team works and they can really lead the new people,” said Adlai-Gail.

“We had a lot of new families and a lot of people completely new to the sport. It was cool to be able to see these new kids improve so much throughout the season and then to have the kids who have been there for so long to be able to help them and get them used to what a swim meet is like and how the practices are run.”

Adlai-Gail, for her part, enjoyed running the team. “I loved being the head coach, it is nice that I have been able to work my way up in terms of leadership on this team since I have been there for so long,” said Adlai-Gail, whose staff this summer included her younger sister Rachel, a former Lemmings star herself, and Beth Nagle, another longtime Nassau member.

“It is nice to really now have that space to take over a little bit and keep that same Nassau spirit that I was able to experience when I was younger.”

That Nassau spirit was certainly alive and well this summer.

“I always say that Nassau is such a nice, diverse community of people coming from all over with their own different levels of experience in terms of swimming,” said Adlai-Gail.

“Everyone is so supportive of each other. We always have the kids cheering at the meets; we just have such a good energy at the meets. Even though we are going in and we see that our team is so much smaller than the other ones, we still have the kids on the side of the pool cheering the entire team with our iconic Nassau cheers. It is just that community feel. The younger kids and the older kids all interact with each other. They are all friends with each other.”