August 16, 2023

Nassau Swim Club Lemmings Staying Afloat, Enjoying Another Successful PASDA Campaign

IN FORM: Stephen Baytin of the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings displays his freestyle form in a race this summer. In late July, Baytin came up big at the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) championship meet, taking first in the 12U boys’ 50-yard freestyle, first in 50 breaststroke, and first in 100 individual medley. Baytin’s heroics helped the Lemmings take seventh overall at the meet and second among Division 2 teams. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) has shrunk in recent years with such powerhouse teams as the Cranbury Catfish and West Windsor Whalers having folded, the plucky band of the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings has stayed afloat despite limited numbers.

With a squad of around 50 swimmers, the Lemmings went 4-2 in PASDA Division 2 dual meet action this summer and ended up taking seventh overall and second among Division 2 teams at the PASDA championship meet in late July.

Nassau co-head coach Maggie Hernan, who was in her first year with the program, quickly gained a sense of what has kept the Lemmings going strong.

“It was great, it is a smaller team than my old team that I coached,” said Hernan, a native of Catonsville, Md., who guided the squad along with longtime Lemming and fellow Bryn Mawr College swimmer Rachel Adlai-Gail.

“It is nice because the kids are all so close. They all love Nassau so much, which was nice to see. I know on some summer teams sometimes the kids don’t really care that much. There were multiple days where Rachel and I would come back in the afternoon and there would still be kids there running up and saying hi even though we said goodbye hours ago.”

Adlai-Gail, a former Lemmings standout who starred at WW/P-North before heading to Bryn Mawr, cares deeply about the club.

“Nassau spirit is a distinct feeling,” said Nassau co-head coach Adlai-Gail. “Nassau is just such a special pool, nestled in the middle of the woods. It is a very nice small, close-knit community.”

The Nassau squad made a special effort at the PASDA championship meet.

“We had some really awesome swims, we had some very fast swimmers,” said Adlai-Gail. “We placed second at champs in our division. I think the only team from our division that we lost to was the Hamilton Hurricanes.”

The Lemmings got some awesome swims from their 8U boys at the PASDA Championships as Vladimir Yanovsky took second in the 25-yard breaststroke, fifth in the 25 backstroke while Henry Robinson placed 15th in the 25 breast and Alexander Baytin took 15th in the butterfly and 20th in the 25 freestyle.

“Vladimir has been dominating this whole season — he swims with kids in practice who are like five, 10 years older than him,” said Adlai-Gail. “He is just a beast in the water. He has just got this great attitude of like he will do anything we ask him to do. We love the Baytins, Alexander is just as competitive as his older brothers [Stephen and Daniel] are. He has that drive to win — he had some really great races this season. Henry had also been improving so much. He is one of our swimmers who just swims in the summer but every year he comes out and he improves so much over those couple of months.”

Another 8U boy, Toviah Wong, who placed 16th in the 25 fly and 35th in the 25 free, emerged as the program’s most improved swimmer this summer.

“He contributed to our third place win in the 8-and-under free relay at champs,” said Adlai-Gail. “He went from barely able to do a third of a lap to doing full laps and learning all of the strokes. He is still working on butterfly and breaststroke, but he has improved tremendously. We are very proud of him.”

Adlai-Gail was proud of the Lord twins, who starred for the 10U boys as Hammond “Ned” Lord placed 11th in the 25 free and 16th in the 25 breast while Copley “Lee” Lord took 14th in the 25 back and 19th in the 25 breast.

“They have also been great this season, they are another one of those families that just comes for the summer,” said Adlai-Gail. “I have been encouraging them to swim during the year. I know that their main thing is soccer, but they have some really great potential in swimming.”

Hernan sees that potential as well in the Lords. “I think that they are friendly competitive with each other,” said Hernan. “They are really good sports about everything, cheering each other on. They are good about pushing their lane mates too in practice.”

The pair of Stephen Baytin and Daniel Yanovsky starred for the 12U boys as Baytin finished first in the 50 free, first in the 50 breast, and first in the 100 individual medley while Yanovsky placed seventh in 50 free and fifth in the 50 back.

“Stephen did win all of his races; he is a very tough competitor,” said Adlai-Gail. “He has got that Baytin drive in him — he has definitely taken after his big brother. He has been doing great this whole season. Daniel is one of the Yanovskys, they are another one of those families where after champs you hand them a super heavy bag of medals. Daniel has been doing awesome; he is 11, so he is on the younger end of his age group but has really gotten after it. He has adjusted well to being in that older age group.”

As for the 14U boys, Gabriel Colon proved to be a standout, taking fourth in the 50 fly, fourth in the 100 IM, and fifth in the 50 free.

“Gabriel started with us last summer and improved so quickly,” said Adlai-Gail. “I don’t think he knew all of the strokes and by the end of the season, he had pretty competitive times. This past year, he has been swimming for a club team and he has totally taken off. He is swimming year-round now.”

The one-two punch of recently graduated Princeton High star Daniel Baytin and Vasily Yanovsky piled up points for the 18U boys as Baytin placed first in the 50 free, the 50 breast, and the 100 IM with Yanovsky taking sixth in the 50 free, fifth in the 50 breast, and fifth in the 100 IM.

Baytin’s performance marked the end of an era for the Lemmings.

“It is Daniel’s last year, we are so sad. He has been on the team since he was 5,” said Adlai-Gail. “I  remember his first day of practice, looking at this very tall 5-year-old. He definitely has the Nassau spirit and always makes a big effort to come to all of our meets even though he has got all of this other stuff going on. This whole summer he was feeling very sentimental about it being his last season. During his last meet we had a little talk about how he has just contributed so much to the team and we are really going to miss him next year.”

Baytin’s excellence helped push Yanovsky to greater heights.

“Vasily is another one of our club swimmers,” added Adlai-Gail. “He has got a great presence on our team. He is one of those fierce competitors. He has been swimming against Daniel for sure and that is a very good challenge. He is the leader of the Yanovsky pack. We are very lucky to have him.”

Nassau was lucky to have Emmy Ferraro competing for its 6U girls as she took 22nd in the 25 back and 23rd in the 25 free at the PASDA Championships.

“Emmy came in, this is her first year at 5 years; she started off not being able to do a full lap, “ said Hernan. “She improved a lot. She ended up learning breaststroke and butterfly. She would also come to the 6-and-under practice in the morning and then she would come to our stroke clinic in the middle of the day. She swam a lot and put a lot of effort into it.”

As for the 8U girls, Siona Sood made a solid contribution, finishing 22nd in the 25 fly, 37th in the 25 back, and 45th in the 25 free.

“Siona is one of those kids who last summer did not know how to swim at all and you wouldn’t believe it now because she is doing all four strokes,” said Adlai-Gail. “She has just been improving so much and has been building up her endurance. She spends her full day at the pool. Nassau has a full day aquatics program and she is one of the kids that has been there all day, every day all summer. She has got a great spirit about her, she is very enthusiastic.”

Annie Snively was busy for the 10U girls at the PASDA meet, taking 18th in the 25 free, 15th in the 25 back, and 21st in the 25 fly while Isabel Colon finished eighth in the 25 breast and 22nd in the 25 back.

“This is Annie’s first year. She was very fast; she came in and wasn’t too sure of herself,” said Hernan. “In practice she did great, she kept up with everybody. In the meets, she was so fast. It was the same with Isabel. The Colons are a great family. Isabel puts a lot of effort in — she is always working extra on her strokes extra after practice.”

The Nassau 12U girls boasted a strong group as Julianna Yanovsky took second in the 50 breast, second in the 100 IM, and third in the 50 free while Uma Jain placed 12th in the 50 back and 16th in the 50 breast, and Lavinia “Vinnie” Lord came in 12th in the 50 breast and 14th in the 100 IM.

“Julianna had a good meet. She is another one of the ones who swims during the year,” said Adlai-Gail. “She is a breaststroker and she always makes that pretty clear. She has had a really great season — she is at every practice. She is always showing up and putting in the work. Uma and Lavinia are two of our swimmers who really only swim during the summer. They always come in and get after it. I think they both really made improvement in their stroke technique this year.”

Hernan, for her part, was impressed by Lord’s improvement.

“I think Vinnie didn’t realize how fast she was at the beginning,” noted Hernan. “I was looking at her times at the meets towards the end of our season. I went up to her and said, ‘Do you realize how fast you went in the meets. You need to be swimming at the front of the lane.’ She is great, she always listens. I can always tell that she is actually taking it in.”

Juliet Wei came up big for the Nassau 14U girls with three Top-10 finishes, taking eighth in the 100 IM, ninth in the 50 back, and ninth in the 50 fly.

“Juliet has been on the team since she was 4 or 5, she is on the diving team as well,” said Adlai-Gail. who also got some other good swims from her 14U girls as Sonya Kearney placed fifth in the 50 breast and 14th in the 50 free while Anoushka Jain took seventh in the 50 breast, 16th in the 50 back, and 26th in the 50 free.

“She comes to our meets and she just kills it every time. She is actually from New York. She and he sister Kimi come to Princeton for the summer. They make that really long trek to Nassau every summer because they both care about the team so much.”

The older Wei went out with a bang in the PASDA championship meet, coming in fifth in the 50 fly and sixth in the 50 breast.

“Kimi and I had a moment right before her last race; it was, ‘Oh my God, this is the end,’” recalled Adlai-Gail. “She has contributed so much to the team over the years and she just loves it so much. She is one of the quieter people on the team, but she just totally has the Nassau spirit. She is going to be missed dearly for sure.”

Adlai-Gail vows that Nassau will be back next year to make noise. “We are doing our best to stick around as long as we can,” said Adlai-Gail. “Most of the kids on this team just have this feeling that they have to stick with Nassau and support Nassau. They want to do everything they can for Nassau.”

In Hernan’s view, the collective effort around the club bodes well for the future.

“The thing that stuck out to me was how much they all love Nassau, not even just the kids,” said Hernan. “There were so many great parents that I saw who were putting in so much work to help out with the pool and the swim team. They were all very welcoming to me for being my first year. It is nice to see people care about a pool that much.”