February 22, 2023

Junior Standout Weber Making Up for Lost Time, Helping PHS Girls’ Swimming Win Sectional Title

HOLDING COURT: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Courtney Weber heads to a win in a breaststroke race this winter. Last Thursday, junior standout Weber placed first in the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breast to help top-seeded PHS defeat third-seeded Manasquan 111-59 in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey, Group B sectional finals at the Neptune Aquatics Center. The Tigers, who improved to 12-0 with the win, were slated to face Shawnee in the Group B semis on February 21 with the victor advancing to the state final on February 25 at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology pool. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Courtney Weber got off to a late start this winter in her junior season with the Princeton High girls’ swim team.

While PHS got its 2022-23 campaign underway in early December, Weber didn’t join the squad until a month later due to illness and injury.

“I had a really bad shoulder injury and last year I had also broken my ankle so it was a combination of things,” said Weber. “The doctors said you should not swim, you are not cleared from COVID, you hurt your shoulder, you hurt your ankle.”

Once cleared, Weber felt a comfort level right away as she got back into the pool with the Tigers.

“I missed my teammates so much and I think a lot of them had missed me; it was just so fun to all be back together,” said Weber. “I bring a lot of positivity because I love to dance and sing with my teammates. They were all super happy to have me back. Nobody was mad and I think everybody felt bad that I was injured.”

Weber made a positive impact upon her return, picking up wins as PHS wrapped up an undefeated regular season campaign and then routed Colts Neck 137-33 in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey, Group B sectional semis on February 13.

Last Thursday, as top-seeded PHS faced third-seeded Manasquan in the sectional final at the Neptune Aquatics Center, Weber and her teammates were primed for a big effort.

“We were super pumped because we saw the boys last year and we were, ‘We want to be there, we can make it there,’” said Weber. “A lot of us know the people on Manasquan, so we were excited to race them. We thought it would be so fun. We just came together as a team and we fought for it. Coach Mis said no matter if we are winning by a little bit, we always have to keep pushing because you never know because somebody could DQ’ed.”

The Tigers got off to an exciting start at the meet, winning the 200 medley relay as Weber produced a dominant breaststroke leg that broke open the race.

“They earned this spot here just as much as we did,” said Weber. “We just wanted to make them a little scared, show them what we are made of and that we could really push them.

The Tigers kept pushing from there, pulling away to a 111-59 win over the Big Blue Warriors as they improved to 12-0. PHS was slated to face Shawnee in the Group B state semis on February 21 with the victor advancing to the state final on February 25 at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology pool.

Weber helped the Tigers set the tone early in the meet,  placing first in the 200 individual medley in a time of 2:09.18 with senior teammate Beatrice Cai coming in second (2:14.01).

“That was super fun, especially after the 200 free when we got out-touched,” said Weber. “Beatrice and me looked at each other and said we are going to win this, this is our race to win. We have been teammates for a while, we used to swim on X-Cel together. We have trained together for years and we knew if we took it out on that fly leg we could come out on top.”

Later in the meet, Weber earned her second win of the day, finishing first in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.54).

“I was super ready for that; after watching them swim the 500 free, that couldn’t be me, it looked so hard,” said Weber. “We have got to get a good win in here. I took out the first 50 strong, just trying to stay with everyone, and then I went for it.”

In the wake of the dominant victory by the Tigers in the sectional final, Weber believes the squad can stay with anyone in the Group B final four.

“We are all so excited and we are ready to move on,” said Weber. “We think we can go all the way.”

Weber is excited about how things have come together for the squad this winter.

“I think we just all love swimming so much and love racing with each other and as a team,” said Weber. “We always try to make it super fun. We feed off each other’s energy. Our seniors this year are great, they take the lead in everything and they make sure that everyone knows what is going on.”

PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz sensed that her swimmers were bringing plenty of energy into the sectional final.

“The girls were definitely really excited, seeing what we have done this year, we knew what we were capable of,” said Misiewicz. “We just wanted to do everything possible to reach that next level and come out successful which we did today.”

In reaching that higher level, PHS got wins from junior Kyleigh Tangen in the 50 free (24.51) and 100 free (53.04), Cai in the 100 butterfly (59.44), and junior Jesse Wang in the 100 backstroke (1:00.77).

In starting the meet with a win in the 200 medley relay, PHS showed that it meant business.

“That was my message to them,” said Misiewicz, whose team also placed first in both the 200 free and 400 free relays. “I said be aggressive from as soon as that buzzer goes off until that last person hits the wall in the 400 free relay, and they did it.”

Weber’s aggressiveness has given PHS a big lift. “She 100 percent had a big day; we were glad to have her back and glad that she was cleared,” said Misiewicz. “She had a lot of different health issues going on and to have her back is great. The plan was that she was going to be with us all year but there are things that are out of your control. We are glad that everything worked out. She is moving in the right direction. She is mentally in a good place and in a good place physically. She is right where she needs to be.”

Senior star Cai produced a very good performance in the meet.

“Beatrice was tremendous; she is just such a stellar athlete,” said Misiewicz. “Whether it is the 200 free, the 200 IM, 100 free, 100 fly, 100 backstroke, 500 free — no questions asked, ‘whatever you want me to do,’ and that is it.”

In addition to winning the 100 back, Wang came up with a stellar effort on the 500 free as she fell just 1.6 seconds short of the win, surging to second over the last half of the race.

“She did well in that 500, I told her if you had five more yards, you could have won,” said Misiewicz. “The way that she came back, the way that she held on, she was aware of everything that was going on in the pool.”

With PHS earning its first sectional crown since 2015, Misiewicz is hoping her team can keep its season going this week as it heads into the Group B semis.

“It has been eight years since our last one so it was nice to make it this far and to accomplish that goal,” said Misiewicz. “One thing I said to them on the bus was we don’t want our season to end tonight, we are not ready for it to end. We are ready to keep on keeping on.”

Misiewicz appreciates how her team can keep up its intensity while having fun at the same time.

“They never cease to amaze me, they are always going to give 110 percent, no matter what,” said Misiewicz. “I thought we swam great on Monday, and today was even better. I am just so proud of them. They are such a good group of girls. They are so fun, they all genuinely get along with each other and they all mesh well. They are truly that definition of a team.”

Weber, for her part, is grateful for getting the chance to finally be part of that group.

“I am so happy I was able to come back, I would have been super sad if I had to miss the whole season,” said Weber. “I am so happy to be back. This is insane for us. We saw our section change and we thought ‘we have got this’ because we were in an arguably harder section last year.”