On Tuesday night, the Pennsbury swim team put the finishing touches on their winter season when they held a ‘thank you drive-by.’ (Photos provided courtesy of PHS swim & dive team.)
Members of the Pennsbury girls/boys swim team didn’t have a chance to close the book on the 2019-20 season when the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to cancel their year-end banquet. On Tuesday night, wearing masks and social distancing, the team – in lieu of the annual banquet – was recognized at a ‘thank you drive-by’ in the parking lot of the Lower Makefield Township pool.
Trophies were presented to the team’s award winners and gifts were given to all the players. Seniors on the squad were Tyler Babel, Josh Cohen, Celia Dolan, Samantha Grossman, Keira Korzeb, Will Deitch, Samantha Mongiello, Brooke Garretson, Sanjay Vinnakota, Damian Szlaga, Ben Wachspress, Kyle Weber and team manager Caroline Hansbury.
“The kids, the coaches and the families needed closure,” booster club president Cyndee Ward said. “These kids did an amazing, amazing job this season, and to let it hang out there without being able to acknowledge it in some way would have been a disservice to all of us. I think collectively we needed that group hug at the end, if you will.”
While there’s no mistaking that the seniors missing out on their final high school season was devastating, the quarantine also took a toll on the underclassmen.
“It was difficult at first because I was confused and lost as to what would happen next in terms of when I was going to be able to get back in the pool. Here we are – three months down the line, and I’m just able to get back in,” junior Ryan Ward said. “I wasn’t able to go to the gym or anything like that, so I had to subsidize everything. I was going for runs and things like that, but it definitely is not the same as being in the pool.”
Ward – who accumulated high points for the boys’ team – has his sights set on swimming at the collegiate level.
“This affects recruiting immensely,” Ward said. “I didn’t think I’d be here talking to coaches about times I swam three months ago and not being able to push forward anything more. I never finished out my club season, so I don’t know where some of my events would have ended up.
“I know I’m certainly not where I was, but I don’t like to think that I’m behind – I don’t think that’s the mindset I need. I like to remind myself that everyone else is mostly in the same boat I am.”
Cyndee Ward acknowledged that it’s pretty much a new world as a result of the quarantine.
“You have juniors that didn’t take SATs yet, you have juniors that haven’t been able to visit colleges yet,” she said. “Anyone who is looking to be a recruit – the NCAA has suspended any recruiting activity until July 31 at the earliest, so these kids are in limbo.
“Many of them don’t have a place to practice, so they’re losing their skills and that scares them. They don’t know what that’s going to do to them. These kids are now forced to wait until the December meets to see what their recruiting times are, and that’s a scary proposition. It’s no early decisions at that point. It’s – I’ve got to wait and get my times in and see what shakes out. We don’t know yet – everybody is sort of guessing if the times will be adjusted this year or if they’ll stay flat. We don’t know. There’s a lot of questions there.
“Not to take any stress that the seniors are experiencing from them – juniors are getting it too, just at a different level. And, quite frankly, will they have a season? What will that look like? You looked at the Preakness last week – a horse race without fans. Are we going to have swim meets without fans? I don’t know what we’re headed for.”
Pennsbury seniors await their graduation in late July. The class of 829 will be split in two groups with A-K on one night and L-Z a day later. Each senior is allowed two guests.
Senior Brooke Garretson said: “It didn’t affect us too much at states. I swam prelims and finals the first day, and the second day I started hearing things about my club team getting closed, the meets getting cancelled. I was like, ‘Wow, this might be my last race all of senior year’ – our relay the second day. It was really fun. We all did really well, but we didn’t make it back to finals – those were cancelled.
“It’s definitely been weird. When it all started, it felt so strange to be sitting at home for so long when I should have been at my club nationals. After a little while, I got used to it and accepted that I wouldn’t be swimming for a while. It wasn’t fun.
“Now I’m lifeguarding at a private pool so I swim practices there sometimes. My club coach was giving us dryland workouts, so I’ve been doing that. I’m glad we were able to do something tonight and see everybody because I wasn’t in the school the entire week before we couldn’t go back, and I missed so much.”
Senior Josh Cohen said: “I spend all my time here at LMT over the summer, so it just feels really weird. I like to follow my schedule – I wake up, I have swim practice here and then I go to (life) guarding, so it kind of sucks. I’m moving to Brookside, which is another club pool, but it’s not the same because you’ve stuck with LMT your whole life, and you’re waiting for your senior year – you get to hang out with your friends, you get your senior awards. I definitely hate missing out on prom. We had our spring sports night in a week before it was cancelled. I was ready for the senior banquet, to give the speech and the senior awards at LMT for summer.”
Senior Will Deitch said: “It’s been hard. We haven’t competed or done anything with school or swimming for three months. I do club – I saw this all coming. Everything was cancelled within three days, so I still have my big club meets coming up. It’s nice to have this tonight. I start practice in three hours for the first time since March. I’m just excited to get back.”
Senior Celia Dolan said: “Nothing has really gone as expected, but I think a lot of the endings – they’re still trying to give us something with the swim banquet and with my spring sports. We’ve had something with my spring sports, and with the prom, they’re doing a prom parade in July, so we can go on floats. I feel like they’re still trying to do something.
“It’s definitely nice to see everyone and just get to say good-bye because it was very all of a sudden. Our last day of school - we didn’t know it was our last day of school, and I think a lot of us wished we would have had that one last good-bye at school – a normal day.”
PHS Men’s & Women’s Swim & Dive Team presented this year’s winner of the John ‘Doc’ Wilson Memorial Award - given for demonstrating positivity, compassion, leadership, competitiveness and sportsmanship - to senior Celia Dolan.
PHS Men’s Swim & Dive Team award winners:
Unsung Hero - Damian Szlaga
Most Improved - Tyler Babel
Determination - Joshua Cohen
Outstanding Swimmer - Will Deitch
Best Freshman - Luke Parada
High Points - Ryan Ward
High Points 2nd-Up - SriDhanvi Shivadevuni
PHS Women’s Swim & Dive Team award winners:
Unsung Hero - Karlie vonSchmidt
Most Improved - Suzy Hlundinski
Determination - Kassidy Georgevich
Outstanding Swimmer - Brooke Garretson
Outstanding Diver - Samantha Grossman
Top Freshman - Mackenzie Cicco
High Points - Avery Stimmel
High Points 2 - Val Lawton