PHS swim teams reach CJ B finals

Girls to face nemesis Rumson

By: Justin Feil
   When the Princeton High girls’ swimming season ends this winter, it will be the end of competitive swimming for Olivia Prevost.
   The Little Tigers senior is determined to extend her career as long as possible before heading to Stanford to row next fall. Prevost did her part in anchoring the winning 200 medley relay as well as swimming the third leg of the winning 200 free relay, finishing fourth in the 100 butterfly and helping PHS finish off a 100-70 victory over Metuchen in the Central Jersey B semifinals Friday as part of the third-place 400 free relay team.
   "I didn’t know if (Friday) was going to be my last swim meet or what," said Prevost, who was a club swimmer for X-Cel for the previous six years. "This is my senior year. I’ve done swimming since I was 5-years-old. It could have been my last meet. At least, I have one more now."
   Top-seeded PHS meets sectionals nemesis and second-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven for the CJ B at North Brunswick 5 p.m. today. Rumson has eliminated the Little Tigers from the state tournament in each of the past two seasons.
   "I think the girls are ready," said PHS head coach Greg Hand who is taking his girls to the sectional final for the first time in his eight-year tenure. "If we don’t win it, it won’t be a disaster. I think they’ve created a terrific opportunity, one that certainly was not part of the team conversation when the season began. They’ve achieved something special for themselves."
   While the PHS girls are in new territory in a sectional final, the Little Tiger boys are in yet another special, but quite familiar, situation. PHS, the top seed in CJ B boys, are in their fifth straight sectional final, where they’ve won the last three titles, after beating Nottingham, 111-59, Thursday. The Little Tigers face Lawrence 6:30 p.m. tonight at North Brunswick. PHS beat Lawrence, 98-72, in the regular season.
   "The boys swam fast enough to win (Thursday)," Hand said. "We’ll have to swim faster Tuesday. Lawrence had a very fast meet Thursday. I think they’re up for the challenge.
   "We have to swim well to move on," he added. "If we don’t, Lawrence will move on."
   The Princeton girls, much like the boys did in their win over Nottingham, used a mix of depth and talent to pull away from Metuchen from the start Friday. Prevost anchored the medley relay to a narrow win in the meet’s first event, and the Little Tiger girls had a 10-4 lead they would never relinquish.
   "That was really exciting and it set the tone for the meet," Prevost said. "At least for me when the meet doesn’t start out well, it’s hard to shake it off. It feels good.
   "It’s the first event and you have no idea what kind of swimmers they are, and how good they are," she added. "You give your best and hope it’s the right amount. It was. It was a good race. It was close."
   The meet ended up not being very close, but the Little Tigers never expected that, even after having a bye through the first round.
   "We were pretty worried about Metuchen because we hadn’t swum them before," Prevost said. "We didn’t really know what to expect because power points, they don’t tell you everything. It’s the same thing with Rumson. We’ve swum Rumson in the states the last two years and each time they’ve been an awesome power. This year, being ranked ahead of them is very surprising.
   "We’re a bit nervous, unsure about what the power points are telling us. We know it will be a close meet and we’ll just give it our all and hopefully it will be good like today."
   After Metuchen closed the gap to four points by taking second, third and fourth in the 200 free in what would be one of just three events that the No. 4 seed actually picked up points on PHS, Nina Rossi won the 200 individual medley and 50 free and the Little tigers had a 39-23 lead. That lead continued to grow even as Rossi sat our her usual specialty — the 100 fly — while Kristin Gray, Carson Johnson and Prevost went 2-3-4 for a 9-7 advantage in the event. It was the first time that Prevost has swum the fly this season.
   "Olivia had a great swim," Hand said. "She’s a really good flier. We’ve always had her in a position where she had to carry some weight for us in the freestyle sprints. It was nice at the end of her career, because she likes butterfly so much, to find a situation where the best thing she could do for us is give us her all in the fly."
   Prevost doesn’t have any trouble finding motivation to give it everything she has. Each meet could mean the last time she’s doing that as a swimmer before moving on to crew with the Mercer Junior Rowing Club this spring. As she reflects on her four years with the PHS swim team, she’s thrilled to have the chance to go out on top.
   "It’s really exciting," she said. "When I was a freshman, we made it into states, but not past the first round. We’ve really improved each year. This year we’re making it to the third and final round of our section in the state. It’s been great to improve through my high school swimming career. Who knows how far we can go?
   "The seasons have pretty much been the same," she added of her personal swimming. "It’s been a plateau in my career. But the atmosphere has definitely improved. The feeling, the camaraderie, has definitely improved. As a high school career personally, I may not have swum any better, but it definitely feels a lot better."
   Nothing would raise those feelings any higher than a win today in the sectional final, something that would give PHS its first CJ B crown under Hand and allow Olivia Prevost at least one more meet in her high school career.