GIRLS SWIMMING AND DIVING MAKES A SPLASH
For the girls swimming and diving team, each meet in the 2016-17 winter season began with an enthusiastic shout of "1, 2, 3, RESERVE!" and ended with a victory. From start to finish, the swimmers and divers proved time and again to be fierce competitors in the water and took home an undefeated record for their efforts.
"We had some tough competition this year," said Head Coach Katie Monroe. "It was similar to what we had last year, but this year, the depth of my girls was so good that it didn't matter. I could put them in any event, and I knew they would do well."
There were a few obstacles facing the team this season. Bouts of illness benched some key athletes and, as with each year, there was a considerable lull in practices during the breaks, as many of the boarders returned home with no access to a pool. Nevertheless, this did not slow them down and they ended the year with a 9-0 record and an impressive showing at the Canton JV Championship Meet, where 55 of the swimmers made new personal records.
For Monroe, it was a truly special year not only for the numerous victories from the girls and the boys swimming and diving teams, but because it was her fourth year coaching at Reserve.
"This group is pretty cool because I started with them, and, as a coach, that is kind of special," she said. "We've come full circle and, for the first time, completed a cycle. And a couple of the seniors started with me as non-swimmers and stayed with it."
She attributes the successful seasons of both her teams not just to hard work and athletic aptitude, but to exceptional leadership and an encouraging atmosphere within both teams.
"We had such strong team spirit this year," she said. "And I don't think the undefeated brought that on. I think we went undefeated because of that. [Elizabeth Downing '17 and Katie Weinzierl '17] were captains for two years and it showed. The leadership that they have is tremendous. And the boys as well! My boy captains were fabulous."
Of course, it was not only the efforts of the girls swimmers that brought incredible results, but also the divers.
"We couldn't have done it without the divers!" said Downing during a Morning Meeting in late February, which was met with schoolwide applause.
Weinzierl highlighted the meet against Twinsburg High School on Jan. 21 as a pivotal season victory. The swimmers knew it would be a ferocious fight to defeat the team they had only managed to beat last year by one point, especially with many of their key athletes out due to illness. With focus and determination, they pulled through, securing their win in the very last relay.
"This season was absolutely the best one out of all my high school seasons," said Weinzierl. "It was amazing to be a senior captain and see the rest of the girls grow throughout the season. Elizabeth and I honestly didn't realize that we could actually go undefeated until we had about three meets left. Once we did realize it, though, the team really started to focus and they all pulled their weight. I've never seen a team that was so selfless and motivated throughout the season. The girls made me so proud because they all reached their full potential and knew that they could accomplish whatever they set their mind to."
Per school tradition and as a special congratulations to the girls swimming and diving team for their perfect record, Head of School Christopher D. Burner '80 awarded the student body with a free day.
We commend the girls swimming and diving team for an outstanding season.
In all his 19 years of coaching riflery, Head Coach Diccon Ong '81 has never seen a season quite like this.
"We've been pretty successful over the last several seasons, and it seems we've gotten stronger and stronger," he said. "This was a really great season for us."
It was an unexpected, pleasant surprise for the coach, who had anticipated spending the year rebuilding a strong team after the graduation of some talented marksmen last May. Instead, he saw a tremendously successful season, with a group climbing their way into near-consistent, high team scores of 1300, indicating an individual average of 260, and with his top precision-shooter breaking the school record. He also saw two of his athletes, Matt Lovre '17 and Nick Harris '17 receive Gold Medals for their exceptional athleticism.
His top marksman and record-breaker was Lovre, a West Point-bound postgraduate, who joined the team this year, much to the surprise and delight of the returning team members.
"We had run into him a couple of times at competitions," Ong explained. "He was kind of a star in our minds."
According to team co-captain Joshua Estrada '17, Lovre not only brought high scores, but an enthusiastic willingness to help his teammates become better athletes.
"It was a little intimidating at first," admitted Estrada. "But he really fit in with the team. As a more experienced marksman, he definitely gave us a lot of pointers and tips, which were really helpful. And he being an already stellar marksman, he also pushed some of the other team members to rise to that level."
With a score of 280, Lovre broke the school record of 279, set the previous year by co-captain Harris. To put in perspective, the national junior record is 284.
You might say that riflery stands out among the athletic lineups at Reserve; it isn't one that brings in spectators and wild crowds, and its unconventional scoring system can make some heads spin. But to overlook this sport would be a mistake; riflery takes discipline, work and motivation. This season, the riflery athletes dug in deep and worked hard at each practice and match, and saw incredible success in a sport that requires a lot of independence and self-analysis.
"It's a very cerebral sport," described Ong. "It requires that you be very introspective. In that sense, it can be difficult to coach. I spend a lot of time teaching them form and correct positioning, but once the kids have shot for a couple of years, everything that is happening that is important, everything that they need to do differently to improve from where they are now, is something that's invisible to me. Really, I'm trying to teach kids to be able to effectively coach themselves."
This is something both Estrada and Harris confirmed wholeheartedly, and it is an aspect of the sport that they value and speak of with great pride.
"With riflery, it's all about you," said Harris. "It is a team sport, but the improvement is completely up to whether or not the precision-shooter is willing, and what's more, the way that you work hard in riflery is not physical. It's about learning how can you learn how you best relax, and figuring out how you learn what's the best position for you. It's very introspective, on a larger scale."
Ong attributes some of his team's success to their high performances in the face of pressure. Because the amount of schools who compete in riflery is considerably less than a sport like basketball or wrestling, the riflery team either has to travel great distances for their matches or they compete through postal matches, which means they fire at their own range and submit their scores.
To create a competitive environment on their own range, Ong implemented match days for every Friday, where the marksmen participate in an intrasquad competition. Their scores determine their position on the 24-member team, which means their position on the team could change every seven days.
It certainly fostered an intense environment for the marksmen.
"In that sense, you are a number," said Estrada. "At the end of the week, you are literally ranked and your placement on the line, so spots 1-12, is determined by how well you shot the week prior. So you always know who did better or worse, and you're always trying to one-up each other."
Along with their competitive spirit, however, the riflery team is also known for their close camaraderie and encouraging atmosphere.
"It's definitely very competitive, but even so, at the end of the day, we're all family," said Estrada.
Now that the season is over, Harris and Estrada both said they were extremely happy to have been a part of the leadership of the team and that they capped their riflery experience with an excellent season.
"I'm proud, as a member of the team, to be a part of that, and also proud as the captain to have been one of the leaders," said Estrada. "I'm really looking forward to [seeing] how the team moves on from this and how much better they'll be. I'd also add that there were stellar performances by the freshmen. I'm not worried at all about the future of the team."