Feibel excels on busy day at Pirate

South senior helps team finish third

By: Justin Feil
   Eight races in one day is a lot for anyone.
   Gabi Feibel handled it just fine, even if they were a capper on analready busy weekend.
   The senior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High South warmed up for Sunday’s Girls Pirate Invitational meet by swimming Friday and Saturday in the Burgdorff Invitational, a United States Swimming meet.
   Feibel showed no ill effects from the Burgdorff as she won the 200 freestyle and was second in the 500 free and was a part of both WW-P South’s 200 free and 400 free relay squads that medaled Sunday in the Pirate. WW-P South finished third as a team, behind only Mount Saint Mary’s and Bishop Ahr.
   "I’m very happy with the way I swam," Feibel said. "I was very tired and I’m sure all the other girls were tired. To do as well as we did in finals was great, especially because we ended up third. It’s such a competitive meet, it’s great to get top six. It’s incredible to be third."
   Other local participants included WW-P North, which finished ninth as a team. Racquel Riestra was third in the 100 free and sixth in the 50 free and Virginia Hung was fourth in the 100 fly for the Knights. Montgomery High was 10th led by its fifth-place finish in the 200 medley relay and eighth-place finish by Allie Dubiel in the 100 back.
   "We were missing a whole bunch of people," said MHS head coach Claire Scarpa, whose team returned to the Pirate after a one-year absence. "The girls who were there, we were happy with their times. Laura Noisten, Gwen Comollo and Allie Dubiel did well.
   "It gave them experience swimming in big meets," she added of the team’s effort. "Most of them have that with club swimming, but it gave our high school swimmers some experience with that. It gave them a taste of what a big high school meet is like to get ready for counties and conferences."
   Feibel did her part to make her presence felt at as many big meets as she could on the weekend. In the Pirate, she was able to harvest plenty of points for WW-P South. The WW-P South captain never considered missing her final Pirate Invitational.
   "The Pirate Invitational, I always think of it as a turning point," she said. "We come together closer as a team. We always build a lot more confidence coming from the Pirate Invitational. Especially this year, we did so well. I think we’ll come out of it confident, but not over the top confident. We know we have big meets coming up. We’re looking forward to them and we have states and counties coming up. We know what we have to do to advance especially going against Westfield today."
   WW-P South finished just ahead of Westfield, a traditional New Jersey ‘A’ Division rival. The Pirates might not have if Feibel didn’t pass up swimming the mile and 100 free at the Burgdorff Invitational in favor of swimming the 200 and 500 freestyle races at ‘The Bubble.’
   "I’m thinking that the Pirate is a lot better," Feibel said. "It’s the meet itself. The Pirate Invitational is so much more fun. The Burgdorff is a USS met. It’s intense. Nothing can compare to the Pirate. It’s so fun."
   Watching Feibel at the meet was all it took to show how excited she was to participate in her third straight one (Feibel did not compete in high school swimming as a freshman). She spread that excitement, as she does in all WW-P South’s meets, big or small.
   "She tries to get a lot of other girls to cheer," said South head coach Paul Hamnett. "She’s supporting every swimmer. Whether they’re the fastest or slowest, she’s a great example of that."
   There were plenty of Pirates on the faster end Sunday. Evelyn Yuen finished second in the 100 breaststroke and Kate Winters took sixth in the 100 back for the only individuals to reach the finals. The 400 free relay of Jenna Ketchmark, Paola Simon, Yuen and Feibel was third. The 200 free relay of Milagros and Paola Simon, Feibel and Yuen was fourth.
   "We did better as a team scoring than I thought we would," Hamnett said. "The girls got top six to finish it. Julia Tomei made a consol. Jenna Ketchmark and Katherine Winters made consol finals. So we had lot in consolation finals. Evelyn also had a consol final. Those points helped us."
   Helping the Pirates build up their score was no easy task in a Sunday jam-packed with competitive swims. Feibel swam in four preliminary races and returned for four finals.
   "It was so difficult," she said. "It was very very difficult as well as for Evelyn and all the other girls who swam in finals. There’s so little time between prelims and finals. Even though you got to relax for an hour or two, it’s not enough. But we still did fabulous."
   Added Hamnett of Feibel’s times: "They were right around what she’s done. She swam another meet (Saturday) and Friday so she wasn’t rested at all. She just gutted it out. Gabi does what’s necessary. It’s a good accomplishment to get first and second in a meet like this."
   It sets Feibel up for a huge finish to her high school campaign. She is looking forward to helping the team finish as well as it has in the past.
   "This last season has most definitely surprised me and I’m sure the other seniors," Feibel said. "Many people didn’t expect us to do so well. Many didn’t expect us to beat Princeton or Lawrence. We beat them both and did well at those meets. I don’t think most people expected us to get Top 4 or Top 5 at the Pirate. It’s been a good season so far. Hopefully we’ll end up doing very well. I’m excited. I’m happy.
   "We got third in both of those relays which is a huge deal," she added. "It’s a competitive meet so getting top six is hard. Especially a relay, it’s really good. The relay shows how good a team really is."
   Feibel was also happy with her own times on Sunday given her hectic schedule for the weekend.
   "They were pretty good," she said. "It was really difficult because it was a long day and we didn’t have that much time between prelims and finals. All I wanted to do was get points for the team. Getting first in the 200 hopefully definitely helped the team. In the 500, I would have liked to get first. But the other girl did amazing. I think she swam her best ever. But just as long as we got points for the team I was fine."
   Feibel was pleased to see how many of her teammates were able to help out. Solid performances across the board gave WW-P South its best finish since a first-place showing two years ago.
   "We definitely went in and had no idea how we would end up," Feibel said. "We were hoping for the best and all the girls would do their best times. Just as long as we beat North and all the teams we’d expect to beat we were OK. We had no idea we would get third. I’m extremely happy. The competition at this meet is so ridiculous. It’s amazing how fast some of these girls are."
   Gabi Feibel proved once again to be among the top competitors overall at the meet. All she was trying to do was help the WW-P South girls’ team finish well. Her solid swims helped the Pirates do well and closed out a busy weekend in promising fashion.