By DAN BYRNE
MALDEN– With two swim meets in the books for 2023, the Wakefield Warriors’ varsity swim team looked to turn things around last Thursday as they competed against the Arlington/Watertown combination team.
Despite coming into the meet winless, the Warriors could easily have been undefeated, having lost each of their first two meets by only two points, despite having taken first place in nearly every event (16/22).
With the same kind of challenges they faced in their first two meets, the Warriors headed into the pool Thursday looking to maximize their top form.
Once again, Wakefield dominated the first place in 10 out of 11 races, en route to their first victory of the year, by a 89-80 final score.
“They have about 26 girls on their team,” Warriors’ Head Coach Kathy Byrne said, speaking of the numerical disadvantage her team faced.
Having come up short the previous two meets, the coach had to try something new to change the team’s luck.
“We knew our girls were well matched against them, so we did a little tweaking to the lineup to see if we could squeeze out a few more points. After Winchester, we talked about really racing your opponents and the girls really stepped up,” the coach added.
“I would say they really looked at racing their opponents whether it was for second, third, fourth or fifth and how important those places were,” Byrne emphasized.
The Warriors held a narrow lead through the first four events, after the relay team captured first place in the opening 200 Yard Medley Relay, Audrey Cook, Emma Santoro and Allie DeGray claimed first place finishes in the 200 Yard Freestyle, the 200 Yard Individual Medley and the 50 Yard Freestyle respectively.
“The team took 10 out of 11 first places with some close races that really were important,” the coach noted.
The Warriors fell behind by a point after winning the next event.
“We only had one person enter the 100 Butterfly, Allie DeGray, and she won it. So she was our standout star for the 100 Fly and she won it which we really needed,” the coach said of one of her standout freshmen. “Allie has done a great job.”
The meet may have hinged on the performance of another freshman, who had to press hard to find the speed to claim 5th place points in the Backstroke.
“In the 100 backstroke, we took first place with Grace McHugh, but we had a real race for fourth place,” Byrne explained. “We needed to get fourth and not fifth. One of our freshmen, Daphne Mogan stepped up and raced her opponent and took 4th, and if you look their times were the exact same.”
It’s true, Mogan’s 5th place time of 1:16.12 matched that of Arlington/Watertowns’ Lucy Poage, however in high school swimming the places are determined by meet officials, and the point was awarded to Mogan based on their judgment.
Following their first victory coach Byrne spoke about her coaching strategy and how losing a pair of meets by so close a margin can be used as a learning experience.
“As a coach, I’m seeing girls stepping up and racing their opponents and recognizing how important that is for the team,” she said adding, “Swimming is such an individual sport that sometimes people are just so focused on improving their times. We’re trying to say, improve the times great, but race those opponents and make sure you come out ahead.”
Byrne finished by saying, “Having two close meets at two points, it became really imperative that we stress that you’ve got to race those opponents and you’ve got to beat them out and come in the top 5. I’m very proud of the team and how they’ve stepped up and are starting to look at competing for those top five places in every race. I’m looking forward to some more wins, this one was well deserved, I’m excited.
“Everybody at the end was very excited, all three coaches were quite happy with the results. We also saw some things we need to improve and we will keep working on that. We have no meets next week so we have time to work and tweak those little things we need to improve.”
Following this week off, Wakefield’s next meet is Oct. 3, 5:30 p.m. against Reading at Malden High.