Lewinson makes most of first trip to Meet of Champs

WW-P South freshman wins 100 breaststroke

By: Justin Feil
   While plenty of club swimmers skipped the Meet of Champions to prepare for the upcoming sectionals and Junior Olympics, Rebecca Lewinson figured this year was as good as any to enter the state’s final high school meet.
   "Because I’m a freshman, it’s just a new experience," said the West Windsor-Plainsboro South freshman. "If it didn’t work out well, I figured I wouldn’t do it again. I didn’t know how it would go, so why not try it the first time?"
   Lewinson is thinking of coming back after winning the 100 breaststroke in a new school record 1:06.02 and finishing 11th in the 200 individual medley. She also swam on the 400 free relay with Paola Simon, Meredith Ketchmark and Kate Winters that finished second overall, and the 200 medley relay that included the same swimmers and finished fourth overall.
   "It was so exciting and overwhelming and totally unexpected," Lewinson said. "I know I’m not at my top peak performance wise between USS and high school because there have been so many meets. I figured I’d go in and give it my all."
   Drew Talarick, a Montgomery High School senior, was the only other Packet-area swimmer to place in the top six in an event. Talarick was sixth in the 200 free in 1:45.63 Sunday, and also swam in a pair of Cougar relays, the 12th-place 400 free relay and the 14th-place 200 free relay.
   It was a busy day, but one that Lewinson emerged from thrilled with the results. Her day began with the medley relay. The Pirates improved on their fifth-place seeding from Saturday’s preliminaries.
   "We moved up a place from the place we were seeded," Lewinson said. "Then I had to switch modes immediately to get ready for the 200 IM.
   "I swam the medley and then the 200 IM. Just because I’m not in the best shape, the 200 IM was tough. It wasn’t a best time, but I did it."
   She still finished as the 11th best in the entire state in one of the most demanding events. During an extended break, she tried to focus for the 100 breast, which she claimed top seed for at Saturday’s preliminaries.
   "I felt a lot different," Lewinson said. "At first, I was really nervous and I couldn’t calm myself down. One of the officials saw me really focusing and she said some comment and it lightened me up. I felt so good. And the top seed gets to pick the song we play before the event. I picked ‘Welcome to the Jungle’. That song just pumps me up."
   Lewinson then went out and set a school record 1:06.02, to break by 17-hundredths of a second the old mark held by Evelyn Yuen. It is the second record she has broken this season. She also owns the 200 IM record, but the breaststroke record was one that looked as though it would have to wait.
   "After the Pirate Invitational, I came pretty close," Lewinson said of missing the mark earlier by three-tenths of a second. "I was pumping myself up. But managing high school and club swimming is too much and I couldn’t get it. I figured next year I’d go for it."
   Lewinson capped off quite a freshman campaign when she jumped out of the pool to anchor the second-place 400 free relay in the next event in another school record, 3:38.70. At the Pirate, WW-P South’s 400 free swam a then record 3:45.44. It just added to the weekend for Lewinson.
   "It really did," she said. "Even though we only swam two days together, we got closer. Kate Winters got another record. For the relays, we just did it for everyone.
   "It definitely helped me to win (the breaststroke). You have so much adrenaline. Everyone was tired. We forgot about it and swam it for the team. That was it."
   It completed the season for the Pirates on a high note. WW-P South showed it could field a trio of powerful relays, as the 200 free relay won the B final for ninth overall, even if they weren’t the ones used in regular meets by coach Paul Hamnett.
   "We kind of switched it up," Lewinson said. "I usually swim the 200 (free). But Brynja (Winnan) was hurt. We had to switch up all the lineup to make up for it. It would have been wonderful to have Brynja there. There’s just something about West Windsor South. There’s so much spirit to the team.
   "It was still really stressful," she added. "Hamnett let me anchor. He knew we could do it. We all somewhere knew we could do it. We just gave it everything we could because then you know you can’t be disappointed."
   It was a theme throughout the meet as athletes put together their final efforts of the high school season and did not come away disappointed. Ketchmark was 12th in the 500 freestyle. Winters was 17th in the 100 backstroke.
   West Windsor-Plainsboro North’s Raquel Riestra was 26th in the 50 free. MHS’ Erica Hydrusko was 26th in the 100 free and 32nd in the 50 free, Jillian Prentice was 32nd in the 500 free, and the Cougars’ 400 free relay was 21st with Jillian and Kristen Prentice, Kara Dubiel and Hydrusko, and the 200 free relay was 30th.
   "I thought they swam well," said MHS girls’ coach Claire Scarpa. "We made it back in the 400 free and got 21st. They’re not tapered. They’re just starting their taper for next weekend. All things considered, they swam well.
   "Kristen Prentice had an amazing split in the 400 free. She did a 57.01. That’s a good way to end her career."
   In addition to Talarick and the Cougars’ relays that included Jeff and Brian Stirling and Nick Warner on the boys’ side, the Pirates had a number of strong showings. Joey Grant was seventh in the 100 free and 10th in the 50 free, Mike Carman was 15th in the 100 breast and 29th in the 200 IM. The Pirates were 20th in the 200 and 400 free relays. WW-P North’s Jason Raziano was 20th in the 100 free and 25th in the 50 free.
   For the seniors, it was a last chance at the scholastic scene. For freshmen like Lewinson, there will be other chances to compete in the Meet of Champions. And as the X-Cel swimmer prepares for her upcoming club races, she is contemplating a return. After all, her first MOC went pretty well.
   "As of now, I’m doing it next year," Lewinson said. "My biggest championship meets haven’t come up yet though. Sectionals are next weekend. JOs are the next weekend after. We’ll see how I do there. I just had a lot of fun doing it."