‘Nihilation in the Natatorium–Mavs crush LHS


Photo Courtesy of Chloe O'Conner

The MHS swimmers and divers all locked arms for the National Anthem during the home meet.

Riley Coesens, Editor in Chief

Milford High School Girls swim and dive faced its rivals, the Lakeland Eagles, on Oct. 8th in its home pool; on that night, the swimmers and divers excitedly prepared to continue the evolution of the program grown from years past. The stakes and energy were at an all-time high; Last October, the swim team had its first win against LHS in more than a decade. This year, the Mavericks continued the progression with another successful meet against Lakeland, crushing the competition, 109-76. In addition to the competitive aspects of the evening, the Class of 2021 also celebrated its Senior Night with traditions centered around remembering highlights of past seasons, friendships, and bonding experiences. Regardless, the team has worked tirelessly toward achieving unmatched success inside and outside of the pool since July, when swimmers participated in lake swims, dryland training, and eventually outdoor morning swims until Milford High School’s pool became accessible to athletes. 

Between numerous season bests and time-drops in relays,  the girls swim and dive team proved to be a force once again. First year Head Coach James Schuler, formerly of Rochester High School, has hugely aided the mental and physical advancement of the team, focusing on both individual and group-oriented successes and teaching the girls to put the needs of the team first: “Athletes were able to recognize that every splash they make in the water–whether off a starting block or a diving board–brings value to the team. Athletes are in varsity spots because I know they can compete and compete successfully. Athletes in exhibition events are there to improve on their bests, but also to help spread the meet out and give other athletes more time in between events,” Schuler explained. “As a coach, it’s my job to give the athletes the opportunity to be as successful as possible, and in turn they need to seize those opportunities, and seize them they did.” The girls have put in countless hours to the sport they love, but how has it contributed to their season-long prosperity?

It would be no surprise that many of the girls were nervous going into such an important meet; the legacy of the swim and dive team was forever changed from the Lakeland competition last year, and it was up to each athlete to do her part to build on the achievements of her predecessors. Freshman Riley Morgan felt the pressure of the competition, but she was ready to give it her all for the sake of the team: “I felt nervous because I knew this was a big meet and we had to win,” she explained. Junior Gracie Smetana agreed in saying, “I felt ready, nervous but ready. I knew how fast I had to swim and how much I wanted to beat them.” Upperclassmen athletes were more than prepared to come out on top again, knowing that it would serve as a symbol of hope for the remainder of the season. 

Another crucial aspect of the team’s success was the spiritedness of each athlete in all sectors of competition: pre-meet cheers, as well as hyping up teammates before and after races, gave the girls ample opportunities to feel the impact of their strength and perseverance to dominate. This was one of Schuler’s main goals going into the evening: “Asking the team to win in all areas of the day: ‘Win races, cheers louder, display great sportsmanship,’ i.e. leave no doubt in the minds of every person in the room who the better team was on that day,” he explained. “I wanted to come into this meet and redefine how Milford Swim and Dive was going to be perceived as a program and we did just that. Won the day in all the individual places, and in sum total walked away with not just a win, but a capital W-I-N WIN.” Many of the girls remembered critical moments during the meet in which the team’s spirit was most evident; Smetana stated, “A highlight for me was the intense energy before the medley relay began. The pool deck was quiet but then erupted with screams from both teams. We won that event and it set a tone for the rest of the meet and led us to win 10 of the 12 events.” Divers on the team also played a major role in the 33-point triumph; Sophomore Megan Sclabassi felt the cheers before the national anthem were a valuable experience for everyone involved. “The chants we do before just get everyone pumped and in a great mood,” she shared. Morgan, as a first-year teammate, experienced the team’s involvement in Senior Night for the first time, citing it as “the highlight of the night,” with hers, as well as many of the seniors’ favorite part being the tradition of pushing the coach into the pool. All of these contributed to the upbeat nature of the evening before Milford officially celebrated another solid performance in the water.

Everyone who has an inside perspective of the swim team’s rigorous demands can understand how effective the hard work each athlete has put in has been to the overall success of the organization this fall. Swimmers and divers are no strangers to building strength and resilience in all aspects of their livelihoods: shortened sleep schedules, with early morning training, as well as long hours on the pool deck, have added to the immense commitment that the girls exemplify. Juniors Anna Malik and Smetana both have seen its effects first-hand. “We’ve been working incredibly hard already this season, between 4:50am practices when we were swimming outside and some pretty awful sets (thanks Coach),” Malik said. “Also, we have so much talent this year, it’s unreal.” With the addition of new divers and the diligence of swimmers continuing to perfect their strokes, the team started 5-0 in the conference. “We work hard in and out of the pool. Every set we swim, every practice we attend, we work hard and give it our full effort,” Smetana explained. “We might not be the biggest team in the LVC, but we want to win more than any team out there.”

Though it is a work in progress, one of the most noticeable changes to the team this year has been the unified shift in attitudes toward competition, preparation, and success-oriented thinking. The idea of having a “4.0 Practice GPA” became the new normal for swimmers; after practice or weight-lifting each day, the value gained and the effort level of the athletes was graded, aiming for a 4.0 GPA by the end of the week. “Once the team started to find its A+ effort and understand what that means both from a practice intensity stand point and a mentality that everything has to be to the best of your ability, I knew that we were on track to have a great week and a great rest of the year,” Schuler said. It is the continuation of this new perspective that has brought MHS to the forefront of the battleground within its conference. 

The girls swim and dive team still has multiple areas in which it would like to improve, however. The win against Lakeland is only the beginning of something greater that will come with additional hours in the pool and raised standards, but it has provided the girls with something to be proud of moving forward. “Considering we just barely edged out Lakeland last year, as opposed to this year in which we crushed them, this sets the stage for the rest of the season by showing other teams in the conference that we’re a real force to be reckoned with,” Malik stated. “For us, the win also helps by building our confidence as we head to our most challenging opponents this season, as well as League Championships at the end of the season.” Senior Ella Glaspie, new to MHS’ program this fall, agreed with Malik in saying, “I think we’re all more hyped up about the rest of the season. It’s shown how powerful our team is amongst the conference and it’s inspired us to continue getting better!” 

Nonetheless, the team hopes to see the program flourish by boosting individual cheering during actual races, adhering to pre and post-meet rehab more consistently, and overall amplifying the power that Milford Swim and Dive exudes beyond this season. Coach Schuler has also encouraged the athletes to partake in the necessary practices of warmup and cooldown more consistently, as it provides endless benefits to one’s overall performance: “It’s very hard to compete at a high level when you don’t understand and execute your warmups and warm downs, and given that our team has the ability to compete at a high level, the mastery of those pre and post competition routines will define just how high our ceiling can be,” he explained.

Overall, the girls swim and dive program is on its way to achieving more than many of the athletes had previously thought was possible; with positive outcomes in its dual meets and no sign of slowing down, both the girls and their coach are excited to see where the remaining weeks of the season take them. In addition to giving a special shoutout to MHS’ seniors (Alex Herndon (Dive), Jackie Smith (Dive), Claire Adams (Swim and Dive), Ella Glaspie (Swim), Cassidy Pakkala (Swim), Captain Riley Coesens (Swim), Captain Rylie Kennedy (Swim) and Captain Annalyse Brogan (Swim)), Schuler proudly said, “I can’t wait to see how much success the rest of the season will hold as I know this meet was just the tip of the iceberg. Go Mavs!”