HHS girls coming together in pool

McCormick, Stever leading way

By: John E. Powers
   The 2003-2004 campaign didn’t start well for the Hillsborough High School girls’ swimming team.
   First, the Raiders had to find ways to fill holes left by the graduation of Devon Trabilsy and Kristen Mendez, and then the team found out juniors Alyssa Barberio, Kristy Patane and Cassandra Steele would swim with their club teams this winter.
   A tough early schedule didn’t help, either. The girls opened with three straight losses to two-time defending Somerset County champion Mount St. Mary, a very good Scotch Plains-Fanwood team and a perennial power in Bridgewater-Raritan.
   But the young Raiders have recovered and are now 5-5 with four dual meets remaining. The girls were set to swim at home against Union Catholic and Warren Hills this week, Somerville next week and the probable makeup with Franklin. That meet was snowed out last Thursday.
   "I think the season has gotten a lot better," junior leader Missy McCormick said. "It was a rough start. We lost those seniors and the three others and we had to get used to it. But the freshmen have made up for it and our depth is much better."
   McCormick and junior Jessica Stever have been the leaders in the pool. In the 111-59 loss to Montgomery, McCormick and Stever were responsible for the Raider wins.
   Stever won the 100 and 50 freestyle and McCormick took the 100 butterfly. McCormick also placed fifth in the 200 freestyle in 2:01.83 at the Pirate Invitational and has qualified for the state individual meet in that event. The Raiders also placed sixth in both the 200 freestyle relay (1:51.62) and the 400 freestyle relay (4:07.32).
   "Right now we’re kind of in the middle of the season, so are team is starting to grow closer," McCormick said. "It’s the time of year you’re a little tired, but we’re trying to get everybody to keep it up."
   Sophomore Colleen DeLucia, junior Madison Goldberg and freshmen Sarah Miller and Courtney Palo have been contributors. Miller has chipped in with the relays and has had dual meet wins in the 200 freestyle. Palo has had success in the 500 freestyle and Julie Bianchini has been an effective sprinter and relay swimmer.
   "We were a little upset that we lost Alyssa, Kristy and Cassandra, but we didn’t let that affect our morale," McCormick said. "We didn’t get down about it. We worked around it. Last year we had a better record, but I think this year has been good considering."
   McCormick, a second-place finisher in the 200 freestyle at the Somerset County Championships last year, said she’s hoping the team can finish the campaign with four dual meet wins.
   "I like dual meets so much because they are so much fun and everybody is cheering for each other," McCormick said. "It’s so much better than an invitational because they are so long and boring. I think there’s a lot more excitement to dual meets."
   Next weekend, the Raiders will take part in the annual Somerset County Championships at the Somerset Valley YMCA in Bridgewater. The following week, they will compete in the Skyland Conference meet.
   Last year, the girls were fourth at the counties and third in the conference. This year, the objectives might have to be set a little lower.
   "Right now, we’re looking at hitting our best times and doing the best we can," Stever said.