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Young Waves Team Dives Into Action

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Peter Hoogterp prepares to race for the Verona Waves against Berkeley Heights.
Peter Hoogterp prepares to race for the Verona Waves against Berkeley Heights.
The Verona Waves swim team, compromised of Verona residents from ages 6-18, plunged into their 2016 season on June 27 and 30 with meets against Berkley Heights and Madison. Though the team fell short in both contests, Head Coach Nick Hennig said that he saw many strong individual swims and that overall, he was pleased with how his team performed.

“We’re quite a young team and we don’t have too many kids who swim more than a month out of the year so this week is all about getting the dust out of the joints,” Hennig said. He pointed to the very few disqualifications as the team’s “biggest improvement” from Monday’s meet to Thursday’s meet. A swimmer can be disqualified from a race for not using proper stroke technique throughout the race. “We went from having eight [disqualifications] to around two. From two or three days of work, that is one of the best I have ever seen as a coach and that’s a credit to my assistants.”

While winning meets and winning records are nice, Hennig made sure to emphasize that winning isn’t everything. The Waves finished their 2015 campaign with five wins and only three losses but the head coach says that to him, a record is nothing more than a number.

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Each meet is compromised of seven different events within which every age group has their own respective race. Points are earned based on the place each swimmer finishes in. This season, however, the Waves focus is much less on which place they finish in and how many points they receive, than it is on creating a fun environment where the swimmers will learn a new sport and have the experience of being part of a team.

“We’re going to improve [from last season] in a lot of different ways,” Hennig said. “The kids are going to walk away knowing all four strokes, the kids are going to walk away with fun memories and the enjoyment of a summer sport and our kids are going to walk away with more friends than when they walked in. With these three things that’s way better of a season than having a better record than you had last year.”

Anthony Giuliano helps out fellow swimmer Kelly Barrow.
Anthony Giuliano helps out fellow swimmer Kelly Barrow.
The head coach noted that these expectations will be reached with the help of his assistant coaches, Mike Dillane, Grace Endersby, Ed Oser and Jasmine Spinelli. All of the coaches are either current or former Waves stars, and Hennig, Oser, Spinelli and Endersby all continued their swimming careers in college, at Scranton University, Marist College, Bucknell University and Seton Hall University, respectively.

Although the Waves’ primary goal for the season is learning the sport and having fun, the coach did mention that some of the swimmers’ individual performances throughout the week stood out among the rest.

On the girls side, Emma Dillane, Kelly Nulty, Anna Hoogterp, and Sofia Fiorita all posted impressive times in their respective races and garnered points for their team by finishing at the top in multiple races this past week.

The boys effort was just as impressive with clutch performances from Nolan O’Toole, Kaya Gumusayak, Peter Hoogterp and Will Sheehan. The boys all earned top honors and big contributions to the team’s overall score.

During the July 4-July 8 week, the Waves will take on the Livingston and Millburn squads. Tuesday’s meet will be away against Livingston, and on Thursday Verona will host Millburn at the Community Pool. The Waves have not raced either of these two towns in recent years as they both joined Division II of the North Jersey Summer Swim League this season.

This growing team is clearly poised to have a memorable and record breaking year. From the positive atmosphere created by the coaching staff, the hard work put in by all the swimmers, and having already shown promise and improvement, the Verona Waves are proving themselves as a force to be reckoned with.

Photos courtesy Donna Giuliano.

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