Hilltopper Abby Claus Named 'Swimmer of the Year' as Summit Area YMCA Celebrates Swim Team Accomplishments


SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Area YMCA Swim Team honored its 2017 graduating seniors in an end of season celebration and awards ceremony held at The Grand Summit Hotel, recapping season highlights, and presenting awards including Most Outstanding, Most Improved, Coaches Awards, Iron Seals, as well as the Swimmer of the Year. Fourteen of the 20 graduating seniors delivered heartfelt speeches that recognized the roles of their family, friends, and coaches throughout their swim team career at The Y.

Summit High School senior Abby Claus took home the Swimmer of the Year honor and the event concluded with the award of the Greg Reeves Scholarship to Blair Boyle as well as a photo and video slideshow of the season’s best memories. 

Claus put in an aquatic tour de force performance that included 13 best times this year spread across nearly every event. “I’m an accidental swimmer," said Claus, adding "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.”

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Claus went on to say, “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, she 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.”

Another Hilltopper swim standout, senior Cole Bligh, tried to answer a question he is often asked while swimming the mile at the pool. "My first thought? 'Why did I sign up for this?'... I have one down and 65 more laps to go... (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'?'

Bligh added, "I think ‘chop chop from the top’ which reminds me of Coach Rich motivating us every night at practice to keep going and, 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. 

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 three-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. Reeves was a lifelong YMCA member and Y Swim Team Coach for more than 25 years; He 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 Boyle 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, Boyle 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.”

Award Winners

Eight Years and Under

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 Outstanding Girl: Margot Armstrong and Natalie Wisniewski
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

To learn more about the Summit Area YMCA Summit Swim Team, visit or contact Laura Riddell at 908-273-3330, ext. 1150 or via


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