VERONA, NJ - As a member of the first ever Verona High School swim team, Will Sheehan is making history.  One of the few veteran swimmers on the young team, Sheehan is relied on and delivers as a consistent point scorer and leader.  This week he makes history again as the first swimmer recognized by TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove -- Will Sheehan is the Hillbilly Athlete of the Week.

"It feels really cool to be named Athlete of the Week," Sheehan said.  " I've never been nominated for anything athletic wise and it's great to be part of this team."

Though he's been swimming for years, this is his first season representing Verona High School and Sheehan is proud to be part of the first team.  Sheehan started swimming lessons when he was two years old.  He's competed for 11 years as part of the Verona Waves summer team and has been swimming competitively for the Caldwell Cyclones club team for nine years as well.  

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For VHS, Sheehan competes in the 50m freestyle, the 100m freestyle, the 100m backstroke, the 400m freestyle relay and the 200m freestyle relay.  

"This past week, at Columbia High School, Will swam the 50 free and the 100 back along with relay spots in the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay," said head coach Jeremy Zak.  "Will won both of his individual races and has been a consistent point scorer all season in the pool. I'm looking forward to his swims at our County Championship on Monday."

"From a racing standpoint, our meet against Columbia was a highlight for me.  I'd had my wisdom teeth pulled the week before and wasn't able to swim for a week and a half," Sheehan said.  "So it was great to get back in the water and I ended up swimming my personal best in the 50 free." 

As expected, the team has had its challenges in its inaugural season. 

"Well, we haven't won a meet yet, but we didn't really expect to.  We have a team of 27 kids and most teams in our division have upwards of 40 and 50 swimmers," Sheehan explained.  "It's really been a numbers game this season. It's very hard to go against teams that are so much larger so we work hard to keep our morale high."

Sheehan said one of the best parts of swimming for VHS is the opportunity to interact and get to know students that he wouldn't have otherwise.  

"Only a few of us swim on club teams.  A couple of our swimmers are brand new and couldn't finish two laps in the pool at the start of the season and now they can do four or more, so everyone is working hard and improving," he noted.  "Overall it's really been a learning season for us."

Being on the team requires dedication -- getting up for 6 a.m. practices at Caldwell Community Center three days a week and attending "dry land" practice in the weight room two afternoons a week.  

Looking ahead, Sheehan is hoping to shave a second off his 50m free and continue to drop time in his other races, and of course, he's hoping for the elusive team win.

"We have a few meets left where we may be able to pull off a win," Sheehan stated.  "And in my mind, that would be a winning season."

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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