2017 Graduating Seniors of the Summit Area YMCA Swim Team On April 27, 2017, the Summit Area YMCA (SAY) and its team of coaches honored the achievements of its many SAY Summit Seal Swim Team members in an end of session celebration and awards ceremony at the Grand Summit Hotel. The program recapped the highlights of the season, gave out awards for Most Outstanding, Most Improved, Coaches Awards, Iron Seals, as well as the Swimmer of the Year Award. Fourteen out of twenty graduating seniors presented heartfelt speeches that recognized the roles of their family, friends, and coaches throughout their swim team career at the Y. The night wrapped with the award of the Greg Reeves Scholarship to Blair Boyle as well as a photo and video slideshow of the session’s best memories. 

Kicking off the night with the first of 14 senior speeches, Senior Cole Bligh tries to answer a question he is often asked while swimming the mile at the pool. His first thought? “Why did I sign up for this?...I have 1 down and 65 more laps to go.” but he soon explains, “…[but] I hear in my head, Coach Greg’s booming voice, motivating me to keep going, and I think ‘Am I imagining this or is he really cheering me on from heaven?’…I think ‘chop chop from the top’ which reminds me of Coach Rich motivating us every night at practice to keep going…as the race is coming down to the wire I can hear Coach Laura at the end of the lane cheering for me. I realize that I’ve heard her voice the entire race, just like she’s been cheering for me, and [has been] my biggest supporter for my 11 years on this team. I hit the wall one last time and I see I’ve achieved my best time.”

Astounding achievements were made by the younger swimmers on the team including Meghan Dwyer who tied a 30-year-old record in the 50 free; Amanda Goceljak who broke six team records for the 9/10 age group this year; Lizzy Washburn who broke eight team records this year in the 11/12 age group; and Floyd Conlin who broke the 1000 and the 1650 for the boy records in the 13/14 age group. Youth enrolled in the SAY Swim Team program learn the importance of setting goals, dedication, and hard work as they push themselves and their teammates to swim faster and better in every practice and swim meet.

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Senior Jackie Crater keeps track of how many yards she swims every season. To date, she has swum 3,685,900 yards or 2,095 miles as a SAY Summit YMCA Swimmer. “I could swim 63.5 circles around Manhattan. I could swim across the English Channel 105 times. Or .9% of the way from Earth to the Moon. And the very best part is, I didn’t do any of it alone. My teammates and my best friends have been there with me through it all, and without them, I wouldn’t have swum a single stroke.”  

“Throughout the years I don’t think I would have become the athlete I am today without the coaches.” said senior Margie Keenan. “[Coach] Andrew, I can always count on you to give the best encouragement whether it’s the 50 free or the 60/50. Hearing ‘Don’t drown!’ before you swim, is always motivating! [Coach] Tim, thanks for turning a terrible swim into a positive one, because even if I added 7 seconds, my turns were great!” The 3-time national athlete went on to say, “[Coach] Momma G, thank you for literally being a second mom to me, especially that one time when you told me to ‘Shut up and stop complaining.’ Only something a mom would do. And [Coach] Laura, thank you for teaching me to always believe in myself and showing me that confidence can make a difference in a race.“

The Greg Reeves scholarship is a $1,000 college scholarship that is presented to a deserving Senior voted on by the Summit Area YMCA Swim Team Coaches. Greg was a lifelong YMCA member and Y Swim Team Coach for over 25 years; Greg also started the Barracuda program, a program for 10 to 18-year-olds with an emphasis on endurance swimming, so noncompetitive teens could learn how to swim. Greg passed away in August of 2012 and a scholarship fund was created and funded by parents that year.

Laura Riddell, Director of Competitive Swim, spoke of Blair proudly as she presented the award. “This young lady has all the qualities that Greg valued. She’s a funny, charismatic, friendly, smart young woman who values her teammates, is respectful with her coaches and always works quietly yet resolutely in practice.” Upon receiving the award, Blair Boyles thanked her coaches, her family and friends for their continuous support, and to her younger swim mates as well. ”…[To] everyone who has more time with this team. Don’t take it for granted, but don’t take it too seriously. Have fun, laugh, but work hard. Because if you work hard, the results will eventually come. Believe in the goal that you are striving for. Thank you Summit Seals.”

A common thread throughout each graduating senior speech detailed advice for the younger swimmers to persevere, work hard, and cherish their teammates who will become their family and lifelong friends for the next few years. Abby Claus, Winner of Swimmer of the Year Award The Swimmer of the Year Award was presented to Abby Claus, a formidable swimmer who had 13 best times this year in nearly every event. According to Abby, “I’m an accidental swimmer. I came from a family of gymnasts, cheerleaders, and performers. I certainly didn’t look like the typical swimmer—I was much shorter and generally smaller than everyone around me for most of my swimming career. I would just keep doing gymnastics because I was good at it and I was the right size.” She went on to describe, “But I kept going to practice and slowly and surely swimming crept up in my life. My gymnastics made me stronger and faster. Swimming became my normal, and my swim friends became the most important people in my life. Attending Nationals for the first time showed me how far I have come, and how much farther I could go.” Addressing the younger swimmers on the team, Abby went on to say, “So I am an accidental swimmer and I want to leave a message for all the other accidental swimmers who may have no plan right now. Be warned, swimming is addictive, it can accidentally become your everything, your number one priority in life. And right around the time you understand how important swimming can be and how much a part of your life these coaches and these friends sitting around you are, it’s all over. So thank you for all the memories, and remember you don’t have to have a plan, just go where the water takes you.”

For many team members, the Y is more than a pool or a gym. The SAY Summit Seals Swim team is a close-knit community focused on developing not only the athletic skills of each swimmer but also on instilling values like commitment, responsibility, perseverance and more that remain with each member well throughout their lives in and out of the pool. The low Coach-to-Swimmer ratio allows coaches to customize training techniques to best suit each swimmer, and the youth swim team participates as a team in YMCA dual meets, YMCA Championships, and additional competitive meets as a registered USA Swimming Team. The Summit Area YMCA Swim Team is run by a team of parents, volunteers, coaches, and Y staff. Volunteers and staff love the sport of swimming, come from a variety of swimming backgrounds, and dedicate their time to helping youth succeed.

To learn more about how to join the Summit Area YMCA Summit Swim Team, visit: www.sayswimteam.org or contact Laura Riddell at (908) 273-3330 ext. 1150 or email laura.riddell@thesay.org.

The Y also provides financial assistance for membership, programs, childcare, sports clinics, and more. To find out more about financial assistance, visit: www.thesay.org/fa or contact Patty Facchinei at (908) 273-3330 ext. 1174 or email patty.facchinei@thesay.org

Award Winners:

Most Outstanding Boy: LJ CONLIN
Most Improved Boy: DECLAN VARGAS
Most Outstanding Girl: MEGHAN DWYER
Most Improved Girl: ​LUCY DEVLIN

9/10 YEARS 
Most Outstanding Boy: WILLIAM MOON
Most Improved Boy: LUCAS ANTONIO
Most Outstanding Girl: AMANDA GOCELJAK
Most Improved Girl: ​AIVY VU

11/12 YEARS 
Most Outstanding Boy: CORBIN LUKANSKI
Most Improved Boy: JACK PULGAR
Most Outstanding Girl: LIZZY WASHBURN
Most Improved Girl: ​BRIDGET DAAB

13/14 YEARS 
Most Outstanding Boy: MATTHEW MCGREGOR
Most Improved Boy: WILL KASEMAYER
Most Improved Girl: ​MELANIE NUNN

15/18 YEARS 
Most Outstanding Boy: JACK ARMSTRONG
Most Improved Boy: DYLAN WALLACE
Most Outstanding Girl: NICOLE TINGLEY
Most Improved Girl: ​BLAIR BOYLE

The Summit Area YMCA is one of area’s leading 501c3 organizations. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, our programs and services are open to all regardless of financial circumstance. To strengthen your community and provide others with the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive, make your tax-deductible donation today at www.theSAY.org/give.