With 41 girls on Rye’s swimming and diving team, head coach Shannon Bolger has the biggest team she’s ever had in her eight years at the helm. It also might just be the best group of Garnets she has ever coached.
Rye improved to 4-0 with a pair of impressive victories September 29 and October 1. In meets that most observers figured would be close, the Garnets easily dispatched John Jay-Cross River 100-75, and then cruised to a 100-72 win at SUNY Purchase against Byram Hills.
Allison Fulenwider, one of the team’s two senior captains, wasted little time in giving a reason for the team’s wild success so far.
“It’s our team depth,” she said. “In most events we have swimmers who can consistently place first in one or two of their best events. But what makes our team even better is the fact that we also have girls who will place second or third, which account for an overwhelming majority of our points.”
That’s exactly how Rye defeated Byram. The Garnets swept first, second, and third in three of the 12 events, and took 27 of the 36 top-three finishes. The foursome of senior co-captain Amanda Owens, Samantha Clark, Courtney Ciardiello, and Kelly O’Neill won the opening 200 medley relay in wire-to-wire fashion, with Katie Konopka, Celia Palmer, Jennifer Cates, and Catherine Tompkins not far behind in second. Rye then crushed the 200 freestyle event, with freshman sensation Melissa Fulenwider leading the way and Lena Krikorian and Haley Rodriguez placing second and third. The Garnets also monopolized the 200 IM. Shannon Toal and Ciardiello were neck-and-neck until Toal inched ahead in the breastroke and then finished a stroke ahead in the fourth and final freestyle segment. Callie Decaro placed third.
Cates won the exhilarating 50 freestyle by a nose against Byram’s best, and Dana Egan came in third. At that point, the competition shifted to the diving portion of the evening, where Coco Darelius and Melissa Frank dazzled the spectators on hand with their graceful moves off the board. Darelius took first with 211.45 points, thanks to a variety of ambitious dives, and Frank finished third with 142.65.
Back in the pool, Owens and Chiaharu Takei were a respective second and third in the 100 butterfly, and then O’Neill zoomed to first in the 100 freestyle. Catherine Tompkins placed second. In the marathon-like 500 freestyle, the Garnets once again pulled off the one, two, three sweep with Nicole Keane in the top spot and Kate Whiston and Holly Hunter behind. Thanks to Melissa Fulenwider’s dynamic anchor performance, Toal, Krikorian, Lizzie Killin, and the freshman were able to secure first in the 200 free relay. Kelly Delane, Celia Palmer, Potter, and Melanie Hunter finished second. Rye didn’t place first in either the 100 backstroke or breastroke, but Owens and Katie Konopka were second and third in the former, and Dana Egan and Clark did the same in the latter. Rounding out the Garnets’ big win was the team of Takei, O’Neill, Rachel Egan, and Krikorian winning the 400 freestyle relay.
“It’s been an exciting season thus far,” said Bolger. “The girls have been working really hard at practice and it is paying off in the pool. I believe they are mentally and physically prepared and striving to be the best they can be.”
As a majority of the Garnets are underclassmen, Bolger was quick to credit Owens and Fulenwider for stepping up into leadership roles and doling out advice to their younger teammates.
“Allison and I view our role as captains as an opportunity to motivate the other girls and push them to always try their hardest at meets,” said Owens. “There are some especially impressive young swimmers like Melissa Fulenwider, Ciardiello, and O’Neill, but everyone on the team contributes and we’ve seen a lot of improvement already this season.”
In short, Rye’s goals are simple. They want to win their remaining meets and the division, and then qualify as many girls as possible from their roster to the Sectionals.
“I am very proud of what we have accomplished already and can’t wait to see what the future holds for this talented team,” said Bolger.
For more pictures from the Byram Hills meet, go to www.ryesportsphotos.com.