Last week, the Belmont High School Girls’ Swimming squad had an objective for each duel meet they hosted at Belmont High’s Higginbottom Pool; be competitive with Division 1 powerhouse Andover High School on Monday, find a way to swim by this year’s surprise team, Winchester High, on Wednesday and, finally, take nothing for granted from a rebuilding Reading Memorial High team on Friday.
Done, done and … done.
In the most active week of the swimming season, the Marauders showed a versatility when asked to switch strokes while several underclassmen swam into prominence against Winchester, the meet which Belmont’s long-time Head Coach Ev Crosscup had his team focus on.
“We were building for this week and I can say that so far, the team has met our expectations. I loved their resolve, they didn’t quit,” said Crosscup after Wednesday’s contest in which the Marauders defeated the Red Raiders, 91-77.
There were surprises galore against Winchester – who came into the Higginbottom having defeated perennial Middlesex League contender Reading earlier in the season – both by the matchup decisions Crosscup threw into the pool and from a trio of freshmen who rose to the occasion.
“Winchester I was worried about. They have some good swimmers so I was somewhat concerned,” he said.
With Winchester arriving with a strong group of free stylists, led by standout Kate Fosburgh, Crosscup sought to fight fire-with-fire and placed his best two swimmers – defending Div. 2 100 yard butterfly state champion Jessica Blake-West and breaststroke specialist Emily Quinn (who won a state championship with Blake-West as a member of the 200 yard medley relay) – into three free events early in the meet.
“There was a little bit of a strategy in that. Winchester has several strong distance swimmers so I wanted to match them up with [Blake-West] because I knew she could give her a good race and beat her,” Crosscup said.
“It also makes both of them stronger and have more confidence that they can swim some off events and still win meets,” he said.
For Crosscup, the strategy would play out if his juniors could gain maximum points and several young, inexperienced swimmers could match season best performances.
Trailing after the first event, the 200 medley – despite having the lower time, the referees gave Winchester first place via a “judges decision” – Blake-West went right back to the blocks for the 200 free and won by seven seconds (2:02.09) with Maya Nagashima easily taking third (2:12.66).
Next was Quinn who also won with ease, taking first in the 200 individual medley (2:24.19). Belmont took third and fourth with Elizabeth Levy (2:30.62) and Molly Thomas (2:32.41) to win the event, 11-5, and lead the Red Raiders, 27-19.
Fosburgh showed her strength in the 50 free (1st in 26.96) to inch the Red Raiders closer to their hosts, 33-29.
But Winchester never got closer as Eunice Lee took Blake-West’s place in the 100 butterfly and won going away (1:07.43) with the first of the freshmen, Julia Bozkurtian, taking a strong second (1:09.38).
While Fosburgh took her specialty winning the 100 free, Quinn cracked the minute mark finishing second with frosh sprinter Ophelle Loblack coming in for a solid third (1:00.50) as Belmont split the points, 8 to 8.
Blake-West won the 500 free with clear water, swimming an impressive 5:28.31 (that would have taken fourth place in the state championships). But it was the Marauders’ third swimmer, freshman Caroline Daskalakis, who stole the show, taking on Winchester’s Vanessa Asaro – both swimmers breathing so they could stare down the other – for 300 yards before putting it into another gear to take a vital fourth place in 6:14.15, one place behind Thomas (6:09.00).
With the first, third and fourth place finishes in the 500, Belmont took a 64-46 point lead. While Winchester took first in the 200 free relay and 100 backstroke, Belmont would capture the next three places to keep its 18 point lead.
And when Maya Nagashima and Klaudia Nagrabska went 1,2 in the 100 breaststroke (1:13.78 and 1:18.04), it was all over but the shouting.
While praising his two juniors for providing the winning edge in the meet, Crosscup was ecstatic about the 9th graders response to their first “big” meet.
“We have some great freshmen but you never know how they will do. [Bozkurtian] showed up and swam well. Loblack is good and is getting even better. And [Daskalakis] is a battler and I couldn’t be more pleased with her effort. It could have been so easy, neck to neck, just to back off. She just broke the other girl’s back,” said Crosscup.
On Monday, Belmont would see Andover – which finished second in last year’s Div. 1 state championships – sweep the freestyle events to take an easy 101-79 victory. The highlight was junior Cynthia Kelsey breaking her school one-meter diving record with six dives totaling 276.70 points.
On Friday against Reading Memorial, Crosscup placed Blake-West in the 50 free and she blister a 25.34 to win while Shephanie Zhang took the 200 IM in 2:34.54, winning by .06 seconds.