February 1, 2023

Displaying Depth, Talent, and Competitive Focus, PHS Girls’ Swimmers Take 2nd Straight County Crown

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Annie Zhao heads to a first-place finish in the 100-meter breaststroke at the Mercer County Swimming Championships last Saturday at WW/P-North. Senior Zhao, who also took second in the 100 freestyle, helped PHS win its second straight team title at the competition. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It would have been easy for the Princeton High girls’ swimming team to have gotten a little flustered as they dealt with some chaos in the preliminary round of the Mercer County Swimming Championships last Thursday evening.

With the computer at the WW/P-North pool crashing, the competition got started an hour and a half late and didn’t end until 11 p.m.

Yet the PHS swimmers stayed locked in as they started their pursuit of a second straight county crown.

“It was tough; you warm up, you get changed, you get ready, you are mentally ready to get started and then they had no idea when they were going to start,” said PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz. “Seeing how quickly we were able to turn around and get our focus and start up with a bang in the 200 medley relay speaks volumes to what the girls are capable of. I was so impressed with what happened on Thursday.”

In the finals on Saturday, PHS started with a bang, taking first in the 200 medley relay, edging runner-up Robbinsville by 0.58 seconds.

“We knew we were going to be pushed by Robbinsville, they have a very talented group of girls as well,” said Misiewicz.  “It was going to be a great race. We were going to push them, they were going to push us. That is what it is all about, being able to have that competitiveness and ultimately to be the ones that come out on top.”

That win set the tone as PHS came out on top, cruising to the title repeat, piling up 345 points to place first to more than double the 168 scored by runner-up Pennington.

Junior Kyleigh Tangen helped PHS take control of the meet as she won both the 100 and 50 freestyle races early in the program.

“She definitely wanted to repeat in the 100,” said Misiewicz, nothing that Tangen won that race in the 2022 county meet. “She is just such a competitor and such an athlete. If I had told her she was going to swim the 200 and 500 free, she would be like, ‘OK.’ I do think she thrives in the sprints and the shorter distances more than in the 500.”

Another key competitor for PHS, junior Lauren Girouard, placed first in the 100 backstroke and third in the 100 butterfly.

“Lauren had such a big day, she was on our medley relay and was a crucial part that kept us in that race in that butterfly leg,” said Misiewicz. “She has just improved exponentially from her freshman year to this year. She is really coming into her own. I entered her in backstroke and she said, ‘I haven’t really been training too much in backstroke.’ We joked about it afterward, saying how is that for not training that much.”

Senior Annie Zhao displayed her improvement, winning the 100 breaststroke and taking second in the 100 free.

“Annie is having a great senior year,” said Misiewicz. “Kyleigh and her going 1-2 in that 100 freestyle was great, it really was a matter of who wanted it more. That was a huge part of the meet for us to go 1-2-3.”

PHS also got some great swims at the country meet from freshman Annie Flanagan, freshman Nia Zagar, junior Jesse Wang, and senior Beatrice Cai.

“For Annie to come second in the 200 free and third in the 100 free as a freshman, she is just such a well-rounded athlete,” said Miseiwicz. “I can put her in the backstroke, the 500, and in the sprints. She was in our 200 and 400 free relays as well. I am very, very happy that we have her for three more years. Nia was in the top five in both of her events (third in 100 breast, fifth in 200 IM), as a freshman that is huge. Jesse and Beatrice did well. Jesse was second in the 100 back and second in the 400 free; Beatrice was fourth in the 100 fly and third in the 200 free.”

In reflecting on the girls earning their second straight county crown, Misiewicz believed they benefit from a synergy with the boys squad, which also repeated as county champions.

“I could not be more impressed and more proud of the entire team,” said Misiewicz. “They just get along with each other so well. The guys feed off of the girls and the girls feed off of the boys. We all swam well in prelims and stuff. When we are together as a team, I feel like we are unstoppable.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming state tournament, Misiewicz believes that her girl swimmers have a chip on their shoulder after falling to Summit in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) North 2 Group B sectional semis last season.

“The girls are ready for a solid state run, they are coming in with a vengeance,” said Misiewicz, whose team has a 10-0 record in dual meet competition this season. “This talk has been happening with the girls before the season even started. They have been hoping to overcome that loss against Summit and to say, ‘OK we are ready to show that Princeton is a force to be reckoned with.’”