NCS swim team ranked No. 1
Patriots set sights on state championship
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.”
The Newark Charter girls swim team is currently ranked No. 1 in Delaware.