On April 11, 2019, families and swimmers of the Summit Area YMCA (SAY) Summit Seals Swim Team gathered at the Grand Summit Hotel to celebrate the achievements of its team with dinner and an awards ceremony. The program recapped the championship season, jaw dropping record breaks, graduating senior speeches and a variety of awards like Most Outstanding, Most Improved, Coaches Awards, the Greg Reeves Scholarship as well as the Iron Seal Awards.
Twenty graduating seniors presented speeches that applauded their coaches, friends and family that influenced their swim career with the Y, many of which humorously included stories the seniors had of grueling swim practices, unconventional coaching strategies and the never-ending support from their teammates. 12 of the 20 graduating this year are “lifers” – kids who have been on the Summit Area YMCA Summit Seals Swim team since they were 8 years old and under, with 9 of the 20 as National athletes and 16 of the 20 are State qualifiers.
“Can we all agree that swimming is one of the most ridiculous sports out there? You can’t breathe, you have to wear a latex suit that takes over an hour to get in and out of…but in the end, we still chose it over all the other sports.” said graduating senior, Julia Bligh as she recounted the memories of her swim career. “What can’t be replaced are my 11 years of memories from being a Seal…Thinking back on my time on this team, my fondest memories are not the hard practices that we spent hours staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool…but will remember the times we cheered for each other…these memories will last forever.”
Tristan Cahill, a graduating senior with a national cut time in 100 backstroke, entertained the crowd in his senior remark by telling how he got involved with swimming. “Most people will tell you they started swimming for exercise, to start in a sport…my mother told me I needed to take up swimming so that if one day we fell off a bridge and into a river, I could save myself by knowing how to swim.” He continued, his words becoming more serious, “Now I can lie to you and say I loved every minute of swimming on this swim team, but I won’t. It’s hard. But the bonds we make here, makes everything worth it...One of the greatest moments of my life to look across the pool and seeing this swim team across three lanes, cheering and supporting me and getting out of the water and being surrounded by hugs from the people I love the most.”
The night wrapped with the award of the Greg Reeves Scholarship to Dylan Wallace. The Greg Reeves Award is in honor of a beloved Summit Area YMCA Swim Team Coach that was lost in the summer of 2012. Greg's love for the sport and love for the swim team is greatly missed by all who knew him. In honor of his memory, his family, his friends, and members of the team made donations to begin a scholarship fund. Each year a $1000 scholarship is awarded to the graduating senior athlete who exemplifies Greg's hard work ethic. Iron Seal Awards were also given out to athletes who have completed all of the events offered to a SAY Swimmer. It is completely swimmer driven and can be earned by anyone 11 years old and over.
The Swim Banquet was also highlighted by a heartfelt speech presented by Laura Riddell, Director of Competitive Swim and head coach of the SAY Summit Seals Swim team. The 2019 Swim Banquet marked 30 years of her career as swim coach and also 20 years as a coach to her own children on the SAY swim team. Graduating along with the rest of the seniors this year included her daughter Allison Riddell, to whom she dedicated her speech to. Laura congratulated Allison on not only her accomplishments as a swimmer, but also recognized her patience, maturity, strength and positivity she upheld throughout the years of being a swim coach’s child and how much she has learned from her daughter in turn. Both speeches from the mother-daughter duo brought tears to the audience’s eyes as each parent knew all too well the trials and tribulations every family goes through as swimmers, parents and coaches.
For many team members, the Y is much more than a gym or a swimming pool. The bonds formed during their tenure in the SAY Summit Seals Swim team motivate and support each other both in and outside of the pool. The close-knit community is dedicated to developing not only swim skills and techniques, but also the health and well-being of each and every athlete. The team instills the Y’s four core values of respect, honesty, caring and responsibility as well as values like commitment and perseverance which remain with each swimmer well throughout their lives. The volunteer coaches and Y staff have a passion for the sport of swimming and come from a variety of swimming backgrounds. They dedicate their time to helping youth to succeed and participate as a team in YMCA dual meets, YMCA Championships and additional registered USA Swim Team competitions.
We are so proud and sincerely congratulate the swim team and their achievements this year!
2019 GRADUATING SENIORS
2019 NATIONAL TEAM
2019 SUN KISSED TEAM
2019 COACHES AWARD
2019 MOST IMPROVED
2019 MOST OUTSTANDING
Click on the gallery below to see more photos from the 2019 Swim Banquet on our Facebook page!
To learn more about how to join the Summit Area YMCA Summit Swim Team, visit: www.sayswimteam.org or contact:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Summit Area YMCA
The Summit Area YMCA is one of the area’s leading 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. Founded in 1886, the Summit Area YMCA has a history steeped in working side-by-side with our neighbors to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, income and background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Each year, we serve more than 10,000 individuals with our free and fee-based programs and services in an area spanning the communities of Berkeley Heights, Gillette, Millburn, New Providence, Short Hills, Springfield, Stirling and Summit. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those with demonstrated need.