By Sophia Ricco
The Half Hollow Hills boys varsity swim team has a winning record that spans years. The team is hoping to continue the streak.
Hills swimmers are undefeated for the past 11 years and are currently at 7-0. The boys won their most recent meet over Connetquot, 101-80.
Head coach, Nina Cunningham hopes to continue the team’s streak as County Champions since 2007.
“We have two more meets left this season and my anticipation is we will continue our undefeated streak,” Cunningham said.
She credits her team’s success to the camaraderie among the swimmers and the fact that many make a year-long commitment to practicing. Although the team lost some top athletes to graduation from last year’s squad, Cunningham feels they picked up plenty of young talent.
“We have a lot of depth within our program,” Cunningham said. “This is our smallest team in a long time. We have 29 athletes; I would say 16 of them swim all year round, so that gives us a big advantage.”
One of the reasons Hills swimmers are dominate is that many of its members practicing with club teams. Offseason work is crucial for swimmers to maintain and improve their race pace, she said.
“Everyone can walk or run, but not everyone can swim or float,” Cunningham said. “It’s a different skill set that lends a better advantage when you swim year round.”
Four of her swimmers have qualified for the state championship meet, including the team’s three captains: Senior captain Kabir Randhawa has been a state finalist for the past three years and is favored to win the 500-yards freestyle; Corey Sherman, a senior captain, qualified for the states in the medley relay; and senior captain Matt Park, a News 12 Scholar Athlete scholarship winner, will also go to States for the 500 freestyle.
Sophomore Ben Glazebnik will join them at the state meet in the 50 freestyle race.
In preparation for the meet, each swimmer will have individualized and specialized practices.
“I’m going to up the distance work, work my walls a lot more, and do more double practices,” Randhawa said. “I’m setting my mind on that first place finish, but in the end all I care about is helping the team. It’s the team that sets us apart.”
For the captains, it’s important to set a good example, while staying engaged with their fellow teammates.
“As captains, we do our best to motivate them and build team bonds,” Randhawa said.
All of the captains have been on the team since 8th or 9th grade, growing up and learning the team’s values.
“Something my captains always told me is to just work hard, stay quiet behind the block and afterwards show some great sportsmanship,” Randhawa said. “I think that’s what I try to show these kids today.”
The team is composed of swimmers of all skill levels, from swimmers working to perfect their flip turn to state finalists. Cunningham finds unity amongst her team when they collaborate to help one another out.
“We tend to do stations, group work and technique work,” Cunningham said. “I have my more experienced swimmers working with my new swimmers, which fosters a lot of camaraderie.”
These methods focus the athletes because they are either responsible in aiding their fellow teammate or are learning and working on their skills.
“Swimming is what it is,” Cunningham said. “There’s breathing tricks, paddles and pool activities that you can do to break up the monotony. But it’s still two walls, a starting block and you have to go back and forth faster than the person next to you.”
As the head coach for the boys and girls varsity team for three years, Cunningham has clearly set out her expectations, “to come, be present, listen, try your hardest and do your best.”
Although, the State Championship does not give out a title, Half Hollow Hills scored the highest amount of points twice in the last three years and hope to do so once again. Their end goal remains the same to win County Championships another year.
“We’ve been CountyChamps for the past 12 years and we want to keep that legacy going,” Randhawa said. “We tell our swimmers and teammates, that it’s not about being cocky. Be confident, but stay humble.”