After 16 years, Melrose High girls’ swimmers beat the Rockets



CELEBRATING SENIOR day are the MHS girls swim seniors from left, Captain Ariana Swift, Olivia Terranova, Captain Anna Steele, and Bea Affatato (missing from photo Olivia Izzi)

CELEBRATING SENIOR day are the MHS girls swim seniors from left, Captain Ariana Swift, Olivia Terranova, Captain Anna Steele, and Bea Affatato (missing from photo Olivia Izzi)

MELROSE — Do you believe in miracles? Coach Deb Deacon and her Melrose High School girls’ swim team do.

So it’s not Lake Placid in 1980 but a once unthinkable sporting event happened on Monday afternoon when the Lady Raider swim team beat Reading High. How rare is such a feat? It’s the first time the swim team has beaten Reading in at least 16 years.

Melrose didn’t just beat Reading, they dominated them in a 96-77 victory that saw Melrose take six out of eight events, slightly shocking from a Melrose team who suffered triple digit losses to the Rockets only 3-4 years ago. Proof positive of a growing program with established leadership and plenty of talent in the pipeline.

“It is really exciting,” says coach Deacon. “Reading has been a powerhouse swim team for years. Over the past 16 years I’ve had many talented swimmers but never had the collective talent and depth as this year.”

Melrose began the day by clinching the 200 medley relay behind the efforts of Madeline Hughes, Virginia Guanci, Samantha D’Allesandro and senior captain Anna Steele. Starting off with a win set the right tone, giving Melrose an 8-6 lead. Melrose maintained a 17-13 lead when they swept the two-four spots in the 200 free with efforts from Hughes, Holly Cohan and Alva Ronn. Melrose clinched first place in the next event, the 50 free, with Sam D’Allesandro taking down her nearest Reading competitor for the top spot, giving Melrose a wider lead of 36-26. Senior captain Anna Steele took a clutch win in the 100 butterfly, keeping Melrose ahead 45-33. Melrose’s Holly Cohan finished just seconds behind Reading’s Chris Tzianafar and Isabelle Bate’s third place finish helped Melrose keep a solid 53-41 edge over the Rockets. Freshman find Sam D’Allesandro took a huge win in the 500 freestyle which gave Melrose a 61-49 lead going into the 200 freestyle relay. The quartet of Isabelle Bates, Allie Thome, Madeline Hughes and Holly Cohan outpaced their competitors and their first place finiish helped Melrose stay ahead 69-55. Melrose swept the 1-2 spots in the 100 backstroke, with Hughes and Bates taking the #1 and #2 spot respectively. Melrose’s Virginia Guanci was just inches from a first place victory in the 100 breaststroke but took second. Melrose’s relay team of  D’Allesandro, Cohan, Guanci and Steele sealed the victory with an impressive 400 free relay win, giving Melrose the historic victory over a league juggernaut.

“[Assistant coach] Jackie and I researched the Reading times,” says Deacon. “We worked out our strategy and scored the meet on paper, and we could beat them, the true test would come for the girls in the water. Could they ‘step up’ and swim their times, improve on personal best times and beat Reading. Yes, and they did!”

After the meet, senior captains Anna Steele and Ariana Swift spoke of the significance of the win.

“It kind of feels like a dream to beat them,” says Steele. “We thought it could be very close and that we’d have to work really hard to.”

“It’s always been a huge goal,” agrees Swift. “We didn’t really expect to win it by that much. It’s amazing.”

One thing is for sure, the two seniors will have a hard time leaving – now that they’re having such fun. “It’s sad we have to leave when the team is getting so good,” laughs Swift. “We don’t want to leave now.”

The younger MHS swimmers have brought much talent to the pool, but they’ve looked to their captains for experience and guidance. “They’re really good and hopefully they will have learned leadership skills from us,” says Swift. “I hope they keep the team going the way it is.”

“It is incredible to see my girls working so hard, day in and day out to achieve their own personal bests,” says coach Deacon. “And to see it all come together as a full team effort was priceless.”

Tuesday also also served as Senior Day at the Mystic Valley pool. After this season the team will say goodbye to seniors: Captains Swift and Steele, Beatrice Affato, Amanda Bell, Olivia Terranova and Olivia Izzi.

But there is still work ahead. Melrose will participate in both the Middlesex League Meet at Bentley University as well as States and Sectionals. According to senior captain Steele, they like their chances at league meet. “We hope to make the top three at leagues.” she says. “We have a good team and could do some serious damage.”