Educational Excellence Since 1912
Hamden Hall Country Day School
Educating students in PreSchool through Grade 12

Leaving a Legacy of Fun in the Pool

Bud Kohler
     This is the largest varsity swim team that school has ever seen, with 25 upper schoolers and an additional 8 middle schoolers participating as well. And though managing such a large number might seem to pose a challenge, Coach Lyman sees that as one of the most successful and rewarding aspects of the season. “Watching this team congeal with such a vast age spread has been such a joy,” related Coach Lyman. “The older and experienced swimmers know from last year’s New England championship just how much each race matters. They have shown patience and great mentorship with the newer and younger swimmers, and have helped build a tight knit and inclusive culture that everyone wants to share.” Coach Lyman explained how underclassmen have grown into roles, especially the distance events, singling out 9th grader Heath Schwartz for his efforts in the 500 free, and fellow frosh Jack Cucciarelli, who has excelled in the 100 backstroke, and is using the experience to complement his water polo development. She also cited how others like junior Micah Mfuko have stepped up into new roles and provided vocal leadership. It is also exciting to have diving back in the program in the guise of 8th grade standout Jehan Mody, who took the silver at the FAAs. Lyman added, “Thanks to the guidance of HH Aquatics coach, Amanda Craigh, Jehan has developed into a fearless competitor with 11 different dive preparations. His favorite is a 1 ½  front somersault that draws roars from everyone.” 
     When asked if there was any one turning point to the season, Coach Lyman smiled and explained that there was no one particular meet, but instead, this year the team has enjoyed hitting the road again, instead of virtually all home or local meets. “It’s great to do well at home meets of course; but the kids also feel proud when we showcase our strengths at opponents’ arenas.” Senior captain Bella Ferneini wholeheartedly agreed, saying, “Singing on the away bus rides is the best. We are definitely all about enjoying each other and having fun.”
     Ferneini and fellow senior captains Evan Huang and Patrick Cucciarelli all echoed similar sentiments in their pride in the team’s efforts, while also reflecting on the idea of being at the end of their high school swimming careers. Bella, who is hoping to swim the 100 breaststroke in college, said, “I remember swimming as a 7th grader and always being in the pool with my brothers Michael and Anthony; I cannot believe it has all gone by so quickly. So this season, even though our girls’ team is not too deep, I am so happy to help with the new and younger swimmers on their turns. Providing confidence for the younger ones is key. It’s great seeing them get excited when improving their best times.” Evan added, “Swimming is how I made all my friends. I love the winning and being part of a legacy. We act like seniors and know how to focus at meets, yet we are big on fun at practice as well.” Patrick Cucchiarelli, who is in his second year as a Hornet and planning to play water polo next year at D1 Villanova, went even further. “It has been a great experience growing as a person and swimmer with Coach (Martha) Phelan, and I also have gotten much closer with Coach Jen throughout my senior year. My time in the aquatics program has allowed me to make so many friends, and I am truly appreciative of that. And there is no better feeling than knowing I get to leave my name on the record board as a goal for other swimmers to push themselves to beat me.” Patrick was referring to the fact that he and Evan, along with sophomore Anthony Ferneini and junior Connor Jermain set a new school record in the 200 free at the FAA meet. “It certainly was not expected,” remarked Eric, “especially when you consider the four who had previously held it, but it got pretty exciting at the prospect as we kept improving our times until we finally achieved it.” 
     The entire team will, of course, soon enjoy a final effort to improve their times and go for an unprecedented ‘threepeat’ New England swimming championship. The meet takes place on March 4th at the Cornerstone Aquatics Center in Hartford. Patrick, however, added a final perspective that swimming was more than winning. “Losing provides experience, you have to lose races to value the ones you win. And a big thing in swimming is the mental aspect. You are asked to go from stone frozen on the block to 100% in the blink of an eye. You have to be ready.” Coach Lyman also felt that another N.E. title would not be the true measure of this season’s success. “Last year our mantra was ‘Whatever the Team Needs.’ But this year the swimmers are doing 'whatever the team needs' without having to chant it. Besides, they’re also too busy having fun!”

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Hamden Hall Country Day School is a nurturing and inclusive community with a dynamic learning environment that promotes academic excellence by understanding each child and fostering their individual growth.