Will mix experienced returners with young talent

SENIOR CO-CAPTAIN Caroline Sweeney will help lead the WMHS swim team in 2017. (Donna Larsson File Photo)

Published in the September 12, 2017 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The WMHS swim team comes into the 2017 season with one of their most experienced teams in recent memory. Usually that only refers to the senior class, something this year’s Warriors have with five returning seniors, but in swimming, experience goes a little bit further.

“A handful of year-round swimmers really makes a difference,” said head coach Kathy Byrne. “And this year we have a lot of year-round swimmers.”

That includes a freshman class that coach Byrne says is the most experienced class she has had in 24 years as the Wakefield coach. That class will team with many returning swimmers who will help show them how to survive in a tough Middlesex League against powerhouse schools with big swim programs like Reading, Belmont and Lexington.

The 2017 WMHS swim team will be led by senior captains Samantha Nimblett and Caroline Sweeney, who are providing a great example for the younger swimmers.

“Samantha and Caroline are very organized and are really doing a great job of leading; I’m so proud of them,” said Byrne.

Sweeney was a member of the 50-yard freestyle championship team last year and is a versatile swimmer who also competes in the 100-yard freestyle medley and other relays.

Nimblett is quite possibly the most important swimmer on the team as her leadership is exactly what the younger members of the team will need to succeed.

“Samantha is always working to improve,” said Byrne. “We’re very lucky to have her as a good example to follow.”

The three other seniors include Kelly O’Connell, a very hard worker who swims the breaststroke; CC Colliton, a strong all-around swimmer whose versatility includes the freestyle and butterfly stroke for the relay team; and Anya Nardone, a sprinter, backstroke and 50-yard freestyle swimmer. Of all five returning seniors, coach Byrne says that they all share similar qualities that will benefit the team.

“All of the seniors are high achievers who work hard and are very motivated students and athletes.”

The Warriors got their season underway on Saturday night with a meet against Reading. Wakefield embraced the challenge of facing one of the best programs in the state and competed hard, placing in many events.

“This was an opportunity to see some really good swimming and for our girls to rise to the occasion,” said Byrne. “I was very pleased with the swimming we saw.”

Wakefield fell to Reading 92-70 but had many standout swims worth noting. The medley relay team took third place with a time of 2:05.20. The relay team consisted of Hannah Guay (backstroke), Laura Sweeney (breaststroke), Caroline Sweeney (butterfly) and Katherine Maloney (freestyle).

Guay, a member of that deep and experienced freshman class, also placed third in the 200-yard with a time of 2:25:20 and first in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:44:61. That is the longest race in high school swimming, and it got the team pumped up for their relay races.

“We were very excited,” said Byrne. “It was really a fabulous swim. She (Guay) is very good at those longer races.”

Laura Sweeney, another freshman and younger sister of Caroline, finished second in the 50-yard freestyle at 2:07:71, and second in the 100-yard breaststroke at 1:17:51.

CC Colliton finished third in the 100-yard butterfly at 1:12:81.

The 200-yard freestyle relay team finished second at 1:52:90. That team consisted of Laura and Caroline Sweeney, Kyra Hoffman, and Guay, who jumped right back in the poll to anchor the race immediately after her long 500 swim.

The 400-yard freestyle relay team, including sophomores Kyra Hoffman and Abby Sederici and freshmen Skylar Forbes and Erica Pecjo finished second at 4:30:60.

In the end, it was a great showing from a team that will continue to get better and gain valuable experience as the season goes on. The difference between this team and in recent years, is that many of the new members of the team are already one step ahead in the learning curve as Byrne and her assistants can spend more time coaching and less time teaching the fundamentals for a sport that often includes athletes that are still trying to learn the basics. It should be a formula for an excellent year, and provide a good opportunity for the younger members to learn what competing in the Middlesex League is like.

“I’m very optimistic,” said Byrne. “The kids are great, they work hard and and support each other very well.”