NCS swim team ranked No. 1

Pa­tri­ots set sights on state cham­pi­onship

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JON BUZBY JonBuzby@hot­mail.com

Ur­su­line Acad­emy, Ne­wark Char­ter School and Char­ter School of Wilm­ing­ton fin­ished first, sec­ond and third, re­spec­tively, at last year’s DIAA Swim­ming & Div­ing Cham­pi­onships.

This sea­son, Ne­wark Char­ter lost to Char­ter School of Wilm­ing­ton in its sec­ond meet of the sea­son. The Pa­tri­ots then re­bounded four days later to de­feat Ur­su­line. One month later, Ur­su­line swam to vic­tory over Char­ter School of Wilm­ing­ton.

The three schools are all ranked in The News Jour­nal Top 5 this week, with Ne­wark Char­ter sit­ting atop the stand­ings, fol­lowed by Ur­su­line and Char­ter School of Wilm­ing­ton. It’s the first time the Pa­tri­ots have ever been ranked first in the weekly poll, but some­thing their head coach doesn’t place any em­pha­sis on.

“Be­ing the No. 1 team in the state does not add any pres­sure to the team to per­form,” fifth-year coach Kur­tis Wittman said. “I don’t talk to the team about be­ing the No. 1 team in the state. But I do talk to the team about putting in the work at prac­tice in or­der to bet­ter im­prove them­selves as swim­mers. If team suc­cess comes from that, then great.”

If you be­lieve the rank­ings and the reg­u­lar-sea­son meet re­sults, all three teams ap­pear to be the fa­vorites for a run at this year’s state ti­tle. Los­ing just three swim­mers to grad­u­a­tion, it’s a vet­eran squad of re­turn­ing swim­mers and an ex­pe­ri­enced coach­ing staff that makes the Pa­tri­ots one of the fa­vorites.

“De­spite the two losses in the past two years to Char­ter School of Wilm­ing­ton, our girls team has not changed too much,” Wittman ex­plained. “We have added a cou­ple of swim­mers to our ros­ter that have greatly contributed to the suc­cess that we’ve had as a team. But mainly, the team, in­clud­ing my­self and my as­sis­tant coach Madi­son Pruitt, has gained ex­pe­ri­ence.”

He noted the team re­turned 23 play­ers from last year.

“That was a huge thing to have as there were many girls that were on the team last year and ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar suc­cess in the dual meet por­tion of the sea­son and the state meet por­tion as well,” he said.

Swim­ming is a team sport that re­lies on in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances, and in the state cham­pi­onships there are more tal­ented swim­mers in ev­ery heat com­pared to the reg­u­lar-sea­son meets. There­fore, place­ment points are harder to come by and as a re­sult it’s not al­ways the team with the best reg­u­lar-sea­son record that ends up on top of the podium at the end of the state meet.

For­tu­nately for Ne­wark Char­ter, the Pa­tri­ots have four all-state per­form­ers from last year’s sec­ond-place team back in the pool try­ing to win the school’s first-ever swim­ming state ti­tle.

Ju­nior Emma Men­zer and her sis­ter, fresh­man Kate Men­zer, along with sopho­more Stephanie Dry­den and se­nior Gretchen Fruehstor­fer all made the All-State team last year based on their per­for­mances at states.

“It is most def­i­nitely a ben­e­fit hav­ing four all-state swim­mers back on this year’s team,” Wittman said. “But it’s not all about hav­ing top swim­mers. It’s a team ef­fort and every­body that con­trib­utes to that team ef­fort is equally im­por­tant. Not every­body is an all-state swim­mer, but there are more swim­mers that will con­trib­ute to our suc­cess­ful sea­son than just the four all­state swim­mers.”

The sup­port­ing cast in­cludes Amanda Caruc­cio, Me­gan Kelby, Sreeya Pit­tala, Ri­ley Sawka and Han­nah Strong.

“And there are nu­mer­ous oth­ers that are used to help the team win meets,” Wittman added. “I put all of my swim­mers, boys and girls, in as many dif­fer­ent events as pos­si­ble to give them as much ex­pe­ri­ence as pos­si­ble swim­ming all the dif­fer­ent events. This al­lows them to be­come more com­fort­able swim­ming any event that I put them in at a dual meet. This also al­lows me to use as many swim­mers as pos­si­ble in or­der to be suc­cess­ful as a team. In high school swim­ming, you can have many top swim­mers on your team, but if you do not have depth, you will lose ev­ery dual meet.”

The Pa­tri­ots have ex­pe­ri­enced suc­cess in all but one of their dual meets, and ac­cord­ing to Emma Men­zer, the wins are a re­sult of not only what hap­pens in the pool, but on the deck and out­side prac­tice ses­sions as well.

“I think the key this year is the close­ness and sup­port of each other,” she said. “There are al­ways peo­ple at the end of each lane or on the side of the pool cheer­ing for ev­ery­one. Team cap­tains Gretchen Fruehstor­fer, Camille Olsen and Ri­ley Sawka are all very good at bring­ing the girls team to­gether and cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive team bond with their lead­er­ship. I also think our coaches are good at en­cour­ag­ing team spirit and bring­ing the team to­gether as a whole.”

“The team chem­istry on this team is an awe­some thing,” Wittman said. “Many of these kids have been go­ing to school to­gether for quite some time, and for some of them, all the way back to early ele­men­tary school. Also, a bunch of them are on swim teams to­gether in the sum­mer for the Sub­ur­ban Swim League. They truly get along well with each other and enjoy hang­ing out with each other. All of the swim­mers on my teams un­der­stand that they are only as good as their team­mates, and will root and cheer them on in ev­ery race.”

The Pa­tri­ots will fo­cus on the re­main­ing races at their dual meets and then the Di­a­mond State Con­fer­ence meet. Af­ter that, it’s onto states, where Ne­wark Char­ter hopes to finish one place higher than last year.

“The key for my team to win a state cham­pi­onship is to learn from their ex­pe­ri­ence last year when we came in sec­ond place,” Wittman ex­plained. “It’s also to con­tinue to put forth their best ef­fort no mat­ter what, which will hope­fully con­trib­ute to their best times of the sea­son.”

SUBMITTED PHOTO

The Ne­wark Char­ter girls swim team is cur­rently ranked No. 1 in Delaware.

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