D’Allesandro is M.L. champ; relays give Melrose best showing in years
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE — In what may be one of their most impressive league meet finishes ever, the Melrose High School girls’ swim team earned a fourth place finish at the 2014 Middlesex League Championship meet at on Thursday, Oct. 30 at Bentley University. Melrose’s phenom freshman Samantha D’Allesandro became the league champion in the 50 freestyle, a remarkable feat for the new underclassman, while two Melrose relay teams enjoyed second place finishes among the toughest of league competition.
An elated Melrose coach Deb Deacon was stunned at their finish. “OMG—OMG—OMG,” was her direct quote and, upon gathering herself, praised the effort of the freshman league champ. “Sam has been an absolute pleasure to coach. I liken her to Midas, everything she touches turns to gold or, in Sam’s case, everything she swims turns into a broken record.”
D’Allesandro topped a contingent of 170 swimmers with a best time of 25.53, edging out Taryn Waite of Lexington (25.70). She showed dominance in other events with a third place finish in the 100 butterfly (1:03.05) and as member of two high scoring relays. The swimmer currently holds four individual records (several dated back to the early 1980s) and three team relay records (Individual: 200 IM, 50 and 100 freestyle and the 100 fly)
“She is fun to watch and her accomplishments are amazing,” says Deacon. “I couldn’t be more proud of Sam as a swimmer but more as a person. She’s a great student, role model and teammate and a joy to coach. We all look forward to watching her compete the next four years.”
Melrose’s relay teams also had impressive performances, with two teams nabbing second place. Their 200 yard medley team of Madeline Hughes, Virginia Guanci, Anna Steele and Sam D’Allesandro came in right behind Belmont’s lineup with a second place finish at 1:59.67, good enough for 34 points. Their 400 yard freestyle relay team of Holly Cohan, Virginia Guanci, Anna Steele and Sam D’Allessandro secured a second place finish with a time of 3:52.90, securing 34 points for Melrose. Their 200 freestyle relay placed seventh thanks to efforts from Holly Cohan, Ali Thome, Isabelle Bates and Madeline Hughes.
Senior captain Anna Steele performed in the top of the pack, taking fifth in the 100 butterfly and eighth in the 100 backstroke, along with outstanding work in the legs of the 400 relay. “Anna Steele has been the swimmer the team has counted on in close races, the anchor on the relays and the top point scorer the last three years. It is wonderful to see her continue to work hard and swimming well. She doesn’t have to ‘go it alone’ this year. Swimming in relay events with strong teammates means her name should appear on the records board for years to come.”
Holly Cohan also enjoyed a terrific day for Melrose, with a fifth place finish in the 100 freestyle and solid legwork in the relays. “Last year the makeup of the team was very different and this year Holly decided to try some sprint events. She found a love in the 100 free and great success. She has been working really hard in practice and her mental game has reached her physical game. I expect she’ll do really well at Sectionals and States.”
Other teammates who enjoyed nice finishes in the 100 freestyle were Olivia DeCecca (21st) and Olivia Terranova (31st). Madeline Hughes also had a good day for Melrose, with a fifth place finish in the 100 backstroke and 13th finish in 200 free. In the 500 freestyle, Alva Ronn secured Melrose’s best place with a 13th place finish at 6:02.15, Olivia DeCecca placed 22nd and Grace Nally 27th. In the 200 yard IM, Virginia Guanci had Melrose’s best time at 2:24.83 good enough for seventh. Josefa Baeza-Diaz placed 20th at 2:49.89. Gaunci also had a top time in the 100 breaststroke, a seventh place finish at 1:15.58. Teammates Josefa Baeza Diaz, Ali Thome and Kelly Nagle finished 20th, 21st and 27th respectively. Other Melrose swimmers competing in the 50 freestyle were: Ali Thome (16th at 28.16), Beatrice Affato, Lucie Coleman, Olivia Izzi, Delia Fredrick, Molly Bright, Paige Leary, Maya Hamberg, Kristen Daye, Helen Burtnett, Alexa Breban, Lexi Thimble, Amanda Bell and Brianna Jones. In the 200 freestyle, Melrose saw finishes from Madeline Hughes (13th) Holly Cohan (15th) Alva Ronn (16) and Isabelle Bates (18th). In the 200 backstroke Melrose saw finishes from Hughes along with Anna Steele (eighth) Isabelle Bates (10th) and Ariana Swift (27th)
Thanks to their collective efforts Melrose finished fourth overall behind powerhouse large schools Belmont, Lexington and Winchester. Melrose beat all small school rivals including Stoneham, Burlington and Wakefield. As a direct result of their many top five performances, the Lady Raiders have now earned three Middlesex League All-Stars honors. Taking home these honors are Anna Steele, Hollis Cohan and Sam D’Allesandro.
This weekend, Melrose sends seven swimmers to compete in the MIAA North Sectionals which will be held at Wellesley College on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Competing will be senior captain Anna Steele (200 free, 100 butterfly) Ali Thome (50 free), Hollis Cohan (100 free, 200 free), Madeline Hughes (100 back, 200 free) Isabel Bates(100 back) and Sam D’Allesandro (50 free, 100 free). Relay teams that will represent Melrose included their 200 free (Holly Cohan, Virginia Guanci, Anna Steele, Sam D’Alessandro), 400 free (Cohan, Guanci, Steele and D’Allesandro) and 200 medley team (Hughes, Guanci, Steele, D’Allesandro).
Coming into the sectionals, D’Allesandro is seeded first in all the north with a time of 25.39 and second in the 100 free, an impressive ranking for the young swimmer. Melrose’s 400 free relay team is seeded third among all competition, giving Melrose a chance to bring home some medal this weekend.