Yi at best in PHS win over North swimmers

Senior is twice third in Little Tiger girls’ win

By: Justin Feil
   Greg Hand considers himself a pretty lucky coach.
   It’s easy to see why with a state champion like Nina Rossi on his Princeton High girls’ swim team. Rossi won two events as the Little Tigers beat West Windsor-Plainsboro North, 107-63, Tuesday. So did Kathleen Morrison.
   But Hand counts himself just as lucky to have less acclaimed swimmers like Young Jin Yi, a senior classmate of Rossi’s, with the Little Tigers. Yi, who is not a club swimmer, had a pair of third-place finishes and helped the Little Tigers go 1-3 in the medley relay as part of the "B" team.
   "Technically, she’s one of the best swimmers in these years," said Hand, whose team hosts Hightstown on Tuesday. "She trains very well. She just works hard and has a terrific attitude. The capper is she constantly lights up regardless of what the situation she is in. The kids love her. She’s so selfless and optimistic. She does her work without any fanfare whatsoever."
   Tuesday, she deserved a bit more recognition. Not only was she third in the 200 individual medley, but Yi broke a personal best. Finishing third was a big deal because it helped the Little Tigers hold off an improved Knights team.
   "It was a really good meet," Yi said. "There was a lot of high energy. North is good team to compete against. They have a lot of good competitors.
   "It was pretty great. We’ve been all working hard over the winter break. Seeing it pay off was pretty great. On top of it, I’ve been sick. It was nice to do it for the team."
   With the win, the Little Tigers improved to 4-1 going into Thursday’s scheduled meet against Nottingham. PHS is hoping it can ride the momentum of the win right into the county tournament and states.
   "We weren’t sure about the outcome," Yi said. "So we all put all our heart into it. Our team pretty much came together (Tuesday). Up until now, we were unsure about our ability. We exploded, in a good way."
   The result showed the returns of a solid winter break schedule. PHS came off its steady training primed to swim against one of its toughest challenges to date.
   "I thought after a real good period of training, we had the right attitude (Tuesday)," Hand said. "The kids were focused. The team seems to be creating the kind of feeling that we were generating last year as the season goes along. I think we’re, one step at a time, moving towards reaching our potential. Time will tell how good we are. It’s nice to see how well we did (Tuesday) in a tough situation."
   Yi expects it will only get better as PHS focuses its training for the end of the season. As a high school only swimmer, she finds a greater benefit from the consistent daily training than do some year-round swimmers.
   "As a non-club swimmer I’ve been happy," said Yi of her progress. "Part of the reward of being a non-club swimmer, it may not feel that great, but some of the time drops are just amazing. When that happens, it’s inspirational. It drives you."
   Yi is driven to finish up strongly. She started swimming competitively for Community Park when she was 7 years old. After not swimming as a freshman, Yi joined the PHS varsity as a sophomore and began contributing though it wasn’t easy initially. She was nauseous just thinking about swimming the 100 fly her first time in a high school meet. It didn’t stop her from growing into a steady contributor.
   "She’s a third-year swimmer on the team," Hand said. "She’s been swimming at Community Park for as long as she can remember. She’s not a club swimmer. She’s one of those kids who is involved in a number of really difficult and time-consuming activities but manages to give 100 percent to each of them. She has improved steadily throughout her career. She has become a solid second swimmer in IM, fly or breaststroke when we want her to swim it. She’s usually part of the B relays."
   She also plays softball for PHS as well as for a travel team. Swimming and softball year-round would have been took difficult.
   "It was a little too much for my schedule," Yi said. "Swimming has definitely been an important part of my life. As a non-club swimmer on the team, the experience is just amazing. Whether you swim one or four events, everyone is so important."
   Yi’s Tuesday performance was an example of it. Her pair of third-place finishes were crucial.
   "In a tight meet, that’s a real significant contribution," Hand said. "And she swam in the B medley relay that finished third."
   She did all of it on a day when she was feeling under the weather. She was pushed by her opponents in her races, but as always, she drew plenty of energy from her teammates at poolside.
   "We knew (Tuesday’s) meet would be a good one in terms of spirit," Yi said. "We’ve been working on team unity and spirit. This energy level comes along with the team. Some seasons, it’ll come earlier and some will come later. This year, it’s in the middle. Every year is a new year. We are expecting the best out of every single person. When Mr. Hand asks that from you, you just do it because you want to."
   Yi has a lot she would like to accomplish this season. Lowering her personal bests is one thing she continues to pursue just as closely as a county and berth in the state tournament. Yi would like nothing better than to go into softball season celebrating one incredible final year of swimming.
   "There are a lot of big things this year," she said. "It’s my last year of high school sports. I’m not sure I’m continuing in college. That in itself is inspiration. Just in general, it’s not tying up loose ends, but giving it all you got so you don’t have any regrets."
   There are no regrets from Young Jin Yi to this point and none from Greg Hand and the Little Tigers. Except that they’d like to hold on to swimmers like her for another year or two.