WW-PS boys second in CJ A despite firsts

Le, Pirates seek continued improvement

By: Justin Feil
   NORTH BRUNSWICK — Dan Le has seen improvement each season that he’s been a part of the West Windsor-Plainsboro South boys’ swim program. Despite a season-ending 90-80 loss to Hillsborough in the Central Jersey A final on Monday, that improvement continued again this year.
   "The team was really strong a couple of years ago," said Le, a junior who won the 200 individual medley, was second in a 1-2 Pirate sweep in the 100 butterfly as well as a part of two winning relays. "Freshman year was the worst year we’ve had in a while. This is the best year I’ve seen. I think the team performed well."
   Last year, the Pirates were eliminated in the sectional semifinals. This year, they reached the finals, and won seven of 11 events, but couldn’t win the grand prize.
   With a host of talented seniors graduating, Le will be among the top Pirates returning next year, when he hopes to continue the climb back to a sectional championship.
   "It looks all right," Le said of the future. "I didn’t think this year we’d be that strong, but we had a lot of freshmen come in. We’re losing a lot of seniors. I know there are some good freshmen coming in though."
   One of those rising freshmen, Hugh, is Le’s younger brother. He’ll have the unenviable task of replacing graduating seniors like Quentin Walsh, one of just three Pirate winners after the break Monday. Walsh also won the 200 free, and has qualified in the state individual championships in both events.
   South held a 33-29 edge after winning the first four events and built the lead to 44-34 following the break with a 1-2 finish by another senior, Boone Wheeler, and Le. Brian Honore topped Tim Rauch in the 500 free for the other South win. The Pirates also won the 400 free relay.
   "Our guys swam fantastically," said WW-PS head coach Paul Hamnett, whose team ended its season 12-2. "They were just deeper than us. We knew we’d be able to win a lot of races. We just needed more fourths than we took.
   "We wanted to win. We knew we were going to have to swim the perfect meet. We came close. We had a couple races where we didn’t come through. It wasn’t that we didn’t come through. Hillsborough swam great. They won it. We didn’t lose it."
   Monday, Hillsborough captured the top two spots in the 100 free and the 200 free relay to take the lead for good, 65-59. Hillsborough also went 2-3-4 in the back behind Walsh, and 1-2 in the breast.
   "We got a lot of first places," Le said. "We usually consider the first part of our meets as more of a weakness. We usually get big points in the back and breast. But they were even better than us there. They’re really similar to us in a lot of ways."
   Hillsborough had enough depth to win the meet despite Pirate winners in seven of 11 events.
   The meet started well for the Cougars as another senior, captain John Winters, roared back to give South a victory in the 200 medley relay by four hundredths of a second. Winters also won the 50 free before the break when Hillsborough rallied to end the Pirate season.
   "The year was definitely a success," Hamnett said. "They weren’t supposed to be here. We got a lot out of these guys for the whole season. I’m very proud of them."
   Hamnett is looking to next year’s swimmers like Le to carry on the success.
   "After the split, we’ve gotten better each year," Hamnett said. "A lot of it is getting our new swimmers involved year-round and developing some of the high school-only swimmers."
   Le is a club swimmer, one who can help in and out of the pool in helping bring along the younger Pirate swimmers. And with the loss of Walsh, Wheeler and Winters in particular, they’ll need his help on both ends.
   "We’re losing a very important class in and out of the pool," Hamnett said. "We’re going to have to have some senior guys step up and be leaders next year.
   "I’ve talked to Dan Le about beginning to take a bigger role on the team. A lot of kids look up to him for what he does in crunch time. Hopefully, he’ll be more vocal."
   He’ll have to in order to ensure that the WW-P South boys’ swim team continues to stride forward, again in hopes of a sectional crown.