Hardware collected at best-ever State Finals

Published in the November 24, 2017 edition

MELROSE’S LUCKY seven swimmers have become MHS’s most decorated girls’ swim team. Pictured at last weekend’s State Finals, from left: Olivia DeCecca, Virginia Guanci, Maddie Hughes, Jen Kahler, Natasha Brown, Molly Williams and Sam D’Allesandro. (courtesy photo)


MELROSE—What could arguably be deemed the best girls’ swim team to compete at Melrose High had their greatest showing in state competition on Sunday, November 19 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Melrose’s lucky 7 swimmers finished in seventh, well ahead of their Middlesex League rivals, with Reading taking the top spot. Melrose walked away with seven medals in the State Finals, proving to be among the best in all of Massachusetts. 

Representing Melrose on Sunday were Natasha Brown, Sam D’Allesandro, Olivia DeCecca, Maddie Hughes, Virginia Guanci, Jennifer Kahler and Molly Williams. 

Melrose coach Deb Deacon lauded her athletes. “It’s such an amazing feeling to know that we beat teams like Lexington, Winchester who are in the ‘big’ league as well as all of the smaller teams who beat us during the regular season. It was a true testament to the talent and hard work of the girls. Seven fearless, committed swimmers. Simply amazing.”

The Lady Raiders’ best results came courtesy of senior Sam D’Allesandro, now a state silver medalist in the 100 freestyle, and Molly Williams, now a state bronze medalist in the 500 free. The two also medaled in the 200 free (4th place, Williams) and the 50 free (3rd place, D’Allesandro, a best time.) Additionally, D’Allesandro broke two of her own school records in the 50 free (24.59) and 100 free (53:09) making this an incredible day for the senior.

Melrose’s Virginia Guanci took home two medals when she cracked the top five in the 100 breaststroke (5th) along with a 6th place finish in the 200 IM. Maddie Hughes placed 16th in the 100 fly at 1:05.15., and Melrose’s Jennifer Kahler had a strong day in relays and enjoyed a finish of 26.64 in the 50 free.

Melrose’s 200 medley relay team started the day strong with a sixth place, medal-earning finish behind the efforts of Hughes, Guanci, D’Allesandro and Kahler. And their 200 freestyle team performed just as strong behind the efforts of Williams, Hughes, Guanci and D’Allesandro, a 6th place finish in 1:45.08. Both sets of relays medaled. 

This has been coach Deacon’s 20th season as MHS coach, and no doubt, it has been one of her favorites. “I am one proud coach, this is the end of an amazing year and phenomenal careers of the senior girls.”

For Melrose, it is a true culmination of four years of high school swimming—combined with four years of year-round swimming—something that helped turn around the program. Says Deacon, “They showed hard work, grit, commitment and sheer determination. They are an incredibly committed and talented group.”

Over the course of the season, Melrose’s goals were focused on personal best times and breaking records. That was accomplished early and often in 2017. “We also kept things a true team effort, all of these were achieved and exceeded over the past two weekends.”

Melrose will see an exceptionally talented senior class leave, with big fins to fill. Having them on the squad for four years has been both a pleasure and advantage. 

“This is a special group of young ladies and we will miss them for many reasons,” says Deacon. “These young swimmers broke, set and re-broke many records throughout their four years. Some were their own records (Sam D in the 50/100 set, broke and re-broke) and others were teammates breaking their records (Molly W breaking Sam D’s 200 free record). They command so many of the records on the records board now, I have a feeling those records will be there for years to come.”

But Melrose will remain competitive in 2018. Among those who return next year are standouts Molly Williams, Jen Kahler and Natasha Brown. Opportunity awaits for this high school swim team. “Next year will certainly be a bit of a rebuilding year,” says Deacon. “We have 11 seniors and 23 swimmers on the team, so we will most certainly need to rebuild our numbers and our swimmers next year. As always, constant improvement is our goal from start to finish.”

For Deacon and assistant coach Cassie Bryant, it’s been a heck of a ride. “I’m incredibly proud of these young athletes. We will miss all of our graduating seniors as they have contributed to the success of the team this year. Sectional and State qualifying seniors Samantha D’Alessandro, Olivia DeCecca, Virginia Guanci and Madeline Hughes have been a pleasure to get to know personally and joy to coach professionally over the past four years. They are remarkable overall athletes and true role models. We are very proud and wish them every success in their future endeavors.”