Favorite athlete: Tim Tebow
Favorite team: Phillies
Favorite memory competing in sports: Pat kneeling on the deck over the warm down pool at Bucknell after we won the medley this year and giving me the biggest hug before I had to turn around and swim the 200 free.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Before practice one day my friend was messing around with a soccer ball on deck and tried to rainbow it over my coach. She completely ate it and almost took out my coach too.
Music on mobile device: Country, pop and rap
Future plans: I plan to swim at the University of Tennessee but am unsure of what I will be studying.
Words to live by: “Inspired by the fear of being average”
One goal before turning 30: To own a beach house.
One thing people don’t know about me: I’m pretty good at juggling and I love to bake.
By Craig Ostroff
The athletes who truly stand out from the crowd are those who perform the best when the pressure is the highest, those who exceed expectations when they and their teams need it the most.
It’s almost unfair to include Aly Breslin in this category, as her coaches and teammates will attest that the Upper Dublin senior always performs at the highest level, whether in practice, in a dual meet, or in the postseason.
Still, it’s impossible to deny that Breslin surpassed even her own lofty standards and played a critical role in giving the Cardinals a kick start en route to claiming a share of the PIAA Class AAA State Championship, the team’s first state title in 26 years.
In the first event of the finals, Breslin—the only senior on the Cardinals’ 200 yard medley relay squad—swam breaststroke as the second leg of the quartet that would earn the gold medal by more than 0.6 seconds. She then pulled off a most remarkable feat by swimming in the very next event, where she dominated her way to her first individual state gold medal by winning the 200 freestyle by nearly three full seconds.
“I don’t know what else you could ask for in a leader,” said Cardinals’ coach Pat Redican. “She swims in back-to-back events in the state championship meet and wins gold in both. She volunteered to swim the 200 free knowing she was also going to swim in the medley relay in the first event. So she finishes the medley, jumps in the water to warm down, then gets herself ready again and throws down her best time by second-and-a-half in the 200 free. It’s the first two events of the state championships, and we’re in first place primarily due to her influence.
“Last year, our medley relay was disqualified in prelims, and the swim would have broken the state record. So our first night of States this year, we wanted to go after that, win that for the team. And Aly’s breaststroke leg was the key. The medley broke the state record, Aly was the fastest breaststroker in the event in the state, best split time. Which is not to diminish anyone else on the relay. Everyone swam well, they had to. But Aly’s leg was key. That’s Aly. That’s what she does for the team.”
And while Breslin is first and foremost about doing what’s best for the team, she admits that a state championship in an individual event was most definitely among her aspirations.
“It’s been a goal of mine since sophomore year,” Breslin said. “I remember finishing at States sophomore year, and saw some people I knew at the top of the podium and I thought, ‘That’s where I want to be. I want to be up there.’ Some were people who had beaten me in races, others were girls I knew from being around the sport so long. And some were girls who also swam for UDAC (Upper Dublin Aquatic Club) and had the same training, so that gave me hope that if they’re swimming for UDAC in the offseason and I am, too, then I have to be on the right path. That was a defining moment for me.”
But while an individual gold was on her To Do List, as recently as a year ago, Breslin probably couldn’t have expected that it would come in the 200 free.
Described by Redican as “the most versatile swimmer I’ve ever coached,” Breslin had competed in the Individual Medley and the breaststroke in previous District and State championship meets. But with the Cardinals losing 200 free state champion Abbie Amdor to graduation—one of many 200 free finalists who had graduated—switching events made sense in terms of helping the Cardinals both during the dual meet season as well as in the postseason.
“I was definitely nervous to step out of my comfort zone,” Breslin said. “I only started swimming the 200 free seriously during my sophomore year. And I had never finished in under 2 minutes before that.
“I was torn between IM and freestyle. I was worried that whichever I picked, I was going to look back and wish I had done the other one, but Pat and I sat down and talked about it, that it was best for team for me to swim the freestyle and give that all I had. Even from the beginning, deep down I think I knew it was the right choice.”
Indeed it was, as the young woman who couldn’t break 2 minutes before her sophomore year posted a 1:47.48 in the 200 free finals at States, almost three seconds ahead of second place.
“Aly had a meet-and-a-half,” Redican said. “She’s the hardest worker you can find, there’s never a day where she’s not in the pool with her A game. She’s always focused, always gives you her best. And yet she continually surprises us.
“As a coach, if you can hold up a story to show how team success leads to individual success, she wrote it. For Aly, it’s always, ‘What can I do best for the team?’ The 200 free is the example, it was where we can score the most points. Not everyone has that versatility to change events, but because we have talented swimmers, the girls start thinking not about ‘What’s best for me,’ but ‘What’s best for the team.’ For Aly, it’s always been, ‘Just put me in and I’ll do my best.’”
Her versatility and work ethic are just two factors that have made Breslin an ideal captain for this year’s team. In the pool, she may be the engine that powers the team, but outside the pool, she’s the mechanic who makes sure all the parts are working together.
“Aly is my go-to girl when it comes to pulse of the team,” Redican said. “She knows what’s going on in the locker room, she knows what to say to people, knows how to talk to them. When you have a talented group like this one, there are intricacies and changes in attitudes in relays and events and how we’re approaching things. I sense things but don’t always get it, Aly knows. And she’s able to serve as that bridge between the coaches and the team.”
“Jenna Johns was one of our captains my freshman year,” Breslin said. “She did a lot and knew what it took to help everyone come together. I don’t know if I picked up on it at the time, but I’d look at captains my sophomore year and last year, and picked up things from them as well, but remembering what Jenna did to lead the team and bring everyone together, that’s the impact I want to leave on everyone my last season.”
Breslin’s early years in high school were also important in helping the multisport athlete narrow her focus. Having dabbled in the likes of tennis, field hockey, lacrosse, and gymnastics as a child, she played volleyball and lacrosse as well as swam in middle school. She dropped volleyball, and spent her first two years at Upper Dublin swimming in the winter and playing lacrosse in the spring.
The District One Championship meet her junior year convinced Breslin that she should focus on swimming.
“I remember after swimming the 200 IM at Districts, I was in the warmdown pool and I’d broken the school record in the 200 IM,” she said. “I’d never felt like that before. I knew I hadn’t gotten a feeling like that from lacrosse. I think that’s when I realized swimming was my one true love as a sport and that if I was going to participate in a sport in college, I wanted to swim.”
She will be doing just that, as Breslin will head to the University of Tennessee next year. She will enter undecided on her major, and will join a team already stacked with top-caliber swimmers.
“I hadn’t even considered Tennessee until spring of last year,” Breslin said. “I started talking to the coaches, and Emily Sykes, who swam for Methacton and also at UDAC, raves about how great it is. I visited campus on spring break and then went for an official visit. Spending time with the team, it was nothing like I’ve seen before, everyone was so close and it was so fun. I can’t know that something like that is out there and not be a part of it.”
While she could have opted for a school where she could have been assured a spot as a freshman, Breslin will have to work for every lap when she arrives in Knoxville.
She wouldn’t want it any other way.
“That really excites me,” she said. “They do a lot of interesting things down there in terms of training and team bonding. I’m so excited to go try it out and see what happens.”
“Aly is going from being a big fish in our pond to really working to make a difference,” Redican said. “As good as she is, she’s going to need to keep getting better if she wants to make an impact. But with her work ethic and her versatility, Aly is going to be able to accept whatever role she has to play and do it well.”
While her senior season at Upper Dublin ended abruptly due to the PIAA Championship meet ending following second-day prelims, there’s no denying Breslin’s legacy as a senior and throughout her four years at Upper Dublin. She saw the Cardinals’ SOL championship record extends to 31 years and counting, she holds two Upper Dublin individual records and is part of three relay team records, and she’s picked up numerous individual and relay golds at Districts. Coming into her senior year with several State relay golds, Breslin added two more and also picked up her first individual gold (as well as a third-place finish in the 100 breaststroke) to help lead Upper Dublin to its first team title since 1994.
But with Breslin having finished her swimming career at Upper Dublin, the Cardinals lose so much more than just her accomplishments in the pool.
“We lose the captain of the ship—there’s no other metaphor that works for me,” Redican said. “Aly sets the direction, she makes sure everyone is pulling in the right direction, and when she has to, she makes it happen herself.
“A kid like Aly comes along once in a career if you’re lucky.”
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