March 29, 2023

PHS Boys’ Swim Star Baytin, Tiger Girls’ Wrestler Rose Earn the Nod as Town Topics’ Leading Winter Performers

MAKING WAVES: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Daniel Baytin displays his breaststroke form in a race this past winter. Senior Baytin produced a memorable final campaign, setting a school record in the 100-yard breaststroke and getting named as the Most Valuable Swimmer at the Mercer County Swimming Championships as PHS won its second straight team title. He helped the Tigers reach the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) North 2, Group B sectional final and culminated his PHS career by placing third in the 100 breast at the Meet of Champions. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Daniel Baytin liked what he saw from the Princeton High boys’ swimming team heading into the winter.

“Our team is a lot faster this year,” said PHS senior star Baytin. “When I was here as a freshman we were fast but nowhere near as fast as this team. The younger guys are growing, they are a lot bigger.”

Baytin, though, proved to be the fastest of the Tiger boys’ swimmers. He set a school record in the 100-yard breaststroke in a meet against WW/P-South in early January, clocking a time 57.22, breaking his previous mark of 58.48.

“It is my main event, I have been swimming it for four years,” said Baytin, who also took first in the 50 freestyle in the meet as PHS topped previously undefeated WW/P-S 126-44. “It is good to drop time definitely. It is still going to get knocked down. It means a lot to me, it is a legacy. I hope my brother (Stephen) one day will beat it.”

In Baytin’s view, he was just scratching the surface of what he could accomplish this winter with the record swim.

“I have just been getting back in shape, the season is far from over,” said Baytin. “The fun stuff is still coming.” Over the course of the season, Baying ended up having a lot of fun.

In the Mercer County Swimming Championships in late January, Baytin starred as PHS won its second straight county crown. Baytin was named the boys’ Most Valuable Swimmer at the meet, placing first in both the 50-meter free and 100 breaststroke. He set a meet record in the breaststroke with his time of 1:03.84 in the preliminary round.

“I was just really excited for Dan, it is something he really worked for; I think he felt a little disappointed that he didn’t get it last year,” said PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz, referring to the MVS honor. “He annihilated the old county record in the breaststroke by almost two seconds in prelims. His time in finals (1:05.28) would have actually broken the record as well. He also had a great 50 free.”

In the state tournament, Baytin helped the Tigers advance to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) North 2, Group B sectional final where they fell to powerhouse Chatham 90-80 to finish the season with a 13-1 record. Baytin excelled in defeat, winning both the 50 free and 100 breast races.

Baytin concluded his PHS career by placing third in the 100 breast at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.

In addition to piling up points for the Tigers, Baytin has exerted a great influence on his teammates over the years.

“Daniel is such an incredibly talented athlete,” said Misiewicz of Baytin, who will be continuing his swimming career at the Division I level this fall. “It has been great just being able to watch him grow and mature and develop over the last four years, not only as an athlete but as a person. He really, really loves Princeton High School swimming. Someone who is as talented as him could easily just make it, ‘OK I just want to pad my resume.’ He truly, truly loves the high school team and the kids love him. The times, they speak for themselves as to his speed and what he is capable of as an athlete but as an individual, as a leader and a captain, the kids really look up to him.”

Baytin’s dominance in the pool and his impact on his teammates as PHS produced another superb campaign make him the choice as the Town Topics’ top boy performer of the winter season.

COMING UP ROSES: Princeton High senior Ava Rose is all smiles as she shows off her path to victory at 114 pounds at the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Girls’ State Wrestling Championships in early March. It marked the second straight state title for Rose, who is headed to the University of Iowa where she will be competing for its women’s wrestling program. (Photo provided by Bruce Rose)

Top Female Performer

Two years ago, Ava Rose didn’t feel quite right as she competed for the Princeton High wrestling team.

Sensing that she was not at full strength, Rose was later diagnosed as having anemia.

“My sophomore year that was so hard for me really made me love the sport a lot more because of how bad it was,” said Rose. “And when I came back, wrestling was magical because it was so much better than it had been.”

As a junior, Rose’s love of the sport helped her win the title at 114 pounds in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Girls’ State Wrestling Championships.

This winter, Rose produced an encore performance in dominant fashion.

Rose pinned Lennix Horsburgh of Bound Brook in the state final at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. It completed a state title run in which only one wrestler didn’t get pinned by Rose. Pennsauken’s Jada Pichardo fell, 17-2, in a technical fall in the quarterfinal round. In the semifinals, she dispatched Lyndhurst’s Ava Krzykalski in under a minute.

In reflecting on her road to the title, Rose credited her work ethic as a key factor underlying her success.

“Everybody says that they work the hardest, but I feel like I work the hardest,” said Rose, who went 20-2 this winter with a 13-2 record against boys and 7-0 mark against girls. “I know everybody thinks that. I always think that. I definitely think the girls’ wrestling in New Jersey has grown tremendously, but I put in the work and I care about my wrestling. I’m always wanting to improve on my wrestling. I’m looking at spots some girls aren’t looking at, and I’m training with some that girls aren’t training with. I’ll be in the room with boys state champs and training with them. I seek places out where I can get better that are hard for me because I want to have it hard. Sometimes some girls don’t have opportunities to get in these really good rooms.”

PHS head coach Jess Monzo will tell you that Rose brings a special intensity to the mat.

“Her way of approaching every match, when she gets that game face on, it’s something different,” said Monzo. “It’s a scary look in her eyes and I don’t know if I want to talk to her, go over our game plan, or leave her alone. It frightens me. I’m thankful I’m not on the mat with her. She’s really excelled the last couple of years.”

With her daily commitment to excellence, Rose has her sights set on some big goals.

“She’s approaching every day like if I don’t win the day, I’m in trouble,” said Monzo. “Her approach is right for that level. She’s doing really, really good things and the sky’s the limit for her. She has aspirations to win an Olympic gold medal in the future. I think that’s what makes her so dominant right now —she’s not training to win a state title. She wasn’t training to win a region title. She’s training right now as a 17-year-old girl to win an Olympic gold medal.”

Rose is gearing up for the next steps in her promising career. She is looking forward to competing for a national title in Fargo, N.D., before she begins her college career at wrestling powerhouse Iowa where she will compete for its women’s program.

“I already got committed to the college I was dreaming of wrestling for,” said Rose. “This was like a victory lap. It was a goal I was working towards. I put a ton of effort into it and I wanted this. But I have bigger goals to work towards. I have a lot of bigger stuff to work towards.”

For doing some very big stuff in her final campaign for PHS as she won a second straight state title, Rose is the pick as the top girl performer this winter.

LO RIDER: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Brady Logue controls the puck in game in action. Freshman forward Logue led PDS in goals with 11 as the Panthers advanced to the quarterfinals of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Top Newcomers
Coming into the winter, Scott Bertoli was looking for his Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team to show more offensive punch.

While some of the squad’s veterans stepped up, freshman Brady Logue emerged as a key finisher right away, notching a goal in a season-opening 4-2 win over Bergen Catholic. Two weeks later, Logue tallied two goals in a 4-4 tie against eventual state champion St. Augustine.

Bertoli saw Logue as a catalyst for the Panthers. “Brady is good, our freshmen can play,” said Bertoli. “He is a kid who likes to be around the net, he can score goals. He is relentless, I love the way he plays.”

Logue ended up scoring a team-high 11 goals as PDS advanced to the quarterfinals of NJSIAA Non-Public tournament and finished the winter at 7-11-3.

“Brady is awesome; we have got a good, talented group of young kids but Brady is pretty special,” said Bertoli of Logue who also had nine assists. “He has just got a way about him, he has got poise. We struggle to score and he is the one kid that has really scored consistently for us.”

Logue’s emergence as key offensive weapon for PDS in his debut season earns him the nod as the top boy newcomer.

Anna Winters has displayed a fearless attitude since she took up basketball.

“From when I started playing basketball, I was always aggressive,” said Winters. “I had the mentality that I needed to win.”

Winters displayed that aggressive mindset as she broke into the starting lineup for the Princeton High girls’ basketball team this winter.

In late December, forward Winters gave a glimpse of the things to come as she starred at the Over the River Classic at South Hunterdon High, tallying 13 points in a 39-36 loss to Springfield (Pa.) and then scoring 18 points in a 56-37 win over Princeton Day School in a consolation contest.

PHS head coach Dave Kosa knew that he had something special in Winters.

“Anna is stepping up big-time, she is so tough,” said Kosa. “She keeps on getting knocked down and popping back up. She has a fearlessness as far as taking the ball inside. She has great body control.”

As the winter went on, Winters fine-tuned her game. “I have definitely learned how to see the court more,” said Winters, who also plays for the PGHoops AAU club team. “I have learned how to use my teammates and get good shots.”

Winters kept hitting her shots, scoring a team-high 296 points with 133 rebounds, helping PHS win the Mercer County Invitational, the ‘B’ bracket of the Mercer County Tournament, as the Tigers went 13-12.

“Anna just took off, it was great to see,” said Kosa. “She is still learning. She can score inside, she can score outside. Her moves inside are really hard to stop and the thing is, she is so physically tough. I am hoping that the other girls feed off of that. She really improved her shot this year a lot and is developing a three-point shot. She really got a lot more consistent as the season went on.”

The development of Winters into a force for the Tigers as a freshman makes her the choice as the top girl newcomer this season.

Top Coaches

Rik Johnson had a bit of a skimpy resume as he took the helm of the Princeton High boys’ hockey team this winter.

Johnson’s first coaching stint came when he joined the PHS program as an assistant coach for the 2021-22 season.

“It was exciting, at first I was a little apprehensive,” said Johnson, who had played for the Monmouth University club hockey team and in men’s leagues but had never coached before. “I observed and I was able to learn a lot different ways to approach things.”

As the preseason started, Johnson focused on getting on the same page with his players.

“There is a learning curve for sure, learning everything you need to know as the head coach,” said Johnson.

“My personal philosophy is for the players to try not to make the same mistake twice. Three, four practices in now, we are trying to scratch those off the list. I am trying different things out, seeing what works.”

After the Tigers got off to a rocky 4-4 start, the squad started to produce some very good work, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 regular season games.

Having lost 7-2 to Notre Dame in the final of the 2022 Mercer County Tournament, the Tigers were fired up to get another shot at the county crown. Second-seeded PHS defeated seventh-seeded WW/P-South 5-0 in the MCT quarterfinals and then topped sixth-seeded Paul VI 7-4 in the semis. Facing fourth-seeded Hopewell Valley in the final in mid-February, the Tigers edged the Bulldogs 3-2 in overtime to earn their first MCT crown since 2020.

A week later, PHS competed in the NJSIAA Public A tournament and the 10-seeded Tigers rolled to an 8-5 win over Passaic Tech. It marked the program’s first win in the state tournament since topping Jackson Memorial 8-4 in the 2019 Public B tourney.

PHS saw its postseason run end win a 9-2 loss at second-seeded and eventual state champion Ridge, leaving the Tigers with a final record of 15-7-1.

In reflecting in his first campaign at the helm of the program, Johnson was proud of what the Tigers accomplished.

“I am guessing we met or exceeded expectations from the team and family standpoint,” said Johnson. “As a first year coach, I don’t know what people were expecting from me. I certainly set my goals and standards high so I wanted to meet those. The guys seemed happy, they really wanted the MCT.”

Johnson, for his part, is looking forward to building on the success the Tigers experienced this winter.

“I focused on emotional management,” said Johnson. “I would evaluate things in practice. I wanted to put everybody where they could succeed. It is pushing the right buttons.”

For pushing the right buttons as he guided PHS to the MCT title and the state quarterfinals in his debut year at the helm, Johnson is the choice as the top coach of a boys’ team this winter.

Carly Misiewicz sensed a hunger around her Princeton High girls’ swimming team coming into the 2022-23 campaign.

After placing first at the Mercer County Swimming Championships last winter, the Tigers lost 92-78 to Summit in the semis of the NJSIAA North 2, Group B sectional to suffer their only defeat in an 11-1 campaign.

“They are very excited and very much looking forward to the year and looking forward to repeat and hopefully getting a little bit further,” said Misiewicz.

Noting that the PHS girls were been moved to Central Jersey sectional this year from North 2, the squad turned its focus to making a deep run in the state tourney.

“Looking at who is in our section, it is hey, we have got a really good shot at this,” said Misiewicz. “From there, we will see what happens.”

A lot of good things happened for PHS as it rolled to a 10-0 regular season with the closest meet being a 104-66 victory over Hopewell Valley in late December.

The Tigers then dominated the competition at the county meet in late January, cruising to its second straight team title, piling up 345 points to place first and more than double the 168 scored by runner-up Pennington.

Competing in the NJSIAA Central, Group B sectional, PHS continued to vanquish the opposition. defeating Colts Neck 137-33 in the sectional semis and then topping then-undefeated Manasquan 111-59 in the final.

Moving on to the Group B state semis, the third-seeded Tigers defeated Shawnee 97-73 to set up a state final showdown against undefeated powerhouse and top-seeded Chatham.

Displaying its death and competitive fire, PHS made history, edging Chatham 91-79 to end the season with a 14-0 record as it earned the program’s first girls’ state title since 1993.

In securing the title, team unity and talent proved to be hallmarks of the success enjoyed by the Tigers.

“The chemistry and our depth were the two major contributing factors,” said Misiewicz. “The best way to really describe it is that this whole season was such a team collaboration, a team effort. Sure we have this person who is an all-star or that person who is an all-star. But at the end of the day, it is how they came together that resulted in us being able to finish off with a perfect season and a state championship.”

Misiewicz relished getting the chance to help the squad come together.

“They were always able to find that next gear and when they didn’t think they had enough and they were thinking they had already gone their best time, they were able to go even faster,” said Misiewicz, who is in her ninth season as the head coach of the PHS girls’ and boys’ swim teams. “It was just incredible to see and I feel very, very lucky and very fortunate to have the opportunity to coach a group of girls like that. I feel truly lucky because not everyone can say that they have such a great experience.”

Misiewicz’s role in leading the Tigers to an incredible and historic season makes her the pick as the top coach of a girls’ team.