Bu Justin Feil, Packet Media Group
Alexandra Temple’s freshman year on Hillsborough High School girls swimming team ended with a gold medal in the 200-yard medley relay at the Meet of Champions.
It was a year that began with high expectations and plenty of pressure for Temple, who was following in the giant footsteps of her sister, Lindsay, who had also been a contributor on state championship relays.
“My first year was definitely really nerve-wracking,” Alexandra Temple said. “I had known a lot of the swimmers since a lot of them were on Somerset Valley YMCA. I guess it was a lot different from this year. I was always really nervous. I had to step up as the A backstroker last year because my sister had left.
“I definitely feel more comfortable swimming on the high school team this year,” she added. “I’m definitely more used to the meets. I’m not as nervous as I was before. It’s a lot easier relieving the pressure.”
Temple is intent on living up to her own standards that are high enough after a strong freshman showing. Hillsborough is the same way. Despite some graduation losses, they are intent on competing for the state title.
“I think we can do really well this year,” Temple said. “I think the expectations are definitely as high as they were last year. Knowing we got knocked out of the first round of finals, we know we can do better if we keep thinking every meet isn’t going to be an easy meet.”
So far, the Raiders have not been taking it easy. They improved to 3-0 with an easy win over Watchung Hills on Tuesday. Hillsborough also avenged last year’s state tournament loss to Hunterdon Central with a 104-66 dismantling.
“We definitely found that we have a lot of depth and a lot of very high-level swimmers,” Temple said. “I know a lot of the sophomores and freshmen have stepped up to take high-level positions left by the seniors who graduated. Our team has stepped up and learned to fight through tough meets and tried to win as much as we can.”
Temple remains a staple in the lineup. She will regularly swim the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke along with the medley and 400 free relays. She feels better about her ability after a change in the focus of her training.
“My swimming has definitely gotten a lot better,” she said. “I’ve tried a lot of new training, more sprinting. I definitely dropped a lot of time from last year.
“Last year for my club team I jumped an age group. I got a new coach and was put into a new practice group. My new coach tries to focus more on mid-distance and sprinting, which is really my specialty. My old coach used to focus on mid- to long distance.”
Against Watchung on Tuesday, the Raiders tested some of their versatility. Temple swam the 200 free and won it, and settled for a narrow second in the 100 free.
“It was definitely different from what I’ve done before,” Temple said. “The 200 free was easy because it’s one of my better events. The 100 free was tough because it was against Marlise Moesch, who is one of their best swimmers.”
Hillsborough faces J.P. Stevens on Friday and Ridge next Wednesday before heading into the holiday break. It’s no time off for Temple and her SVY club teammates.
“We have a training trip for our club team that most of us do,” she said. “I’m going to Florida. I feel it is a big benefit. We’re doing doubles every day. They’re very strenuous practices. They take a lot out of us. It’s training us for back-to-back meets and prelim-final meets. It’ll benefit us for meets later in the year or in the finals.”
Temple gives Hillsborough another outstanding swimmer on whom they can count down the stretch. The Raiders have good depth that helped them pull away from Hunterdon Central in their dual meet even with Hunterdon Central taking its share of event wins.
Rachel Karan, a classmate of Temple, won the 200 free for Hillsborough, and senior Julieyanna Parker won the 50 free and 100 butterfly. Freshman Haley Tevnan won the 100 free as the Raiders avenged last year’s season-ending loss. It’s still a source of motivation.
“We were definitely mad after our last meet and how it ended last year,” Temple said. “Now we’re coming back even stronger this year and we’re going to try to do the best we can.”
Temple can help in the relays as well as the individual events. She sees a lot of potential again for the Raider relays that have been year in and year out among the state’s best.
“The 200 medley relay is definitely our strongest relay,” said Temple who combines with Megan Bull, Parker and Tevnan for quite a team. “We’ve pretty much won that every meet. The 2 free relay isn’t as strong because we have swimmers doing events right around that event. The 400 free relay is in the middle. We’ve won some of them and lost some of them. It’s a strong event and it’s gotten stronger since last year.”
Temple usually leads off the 400 free relay. She did not swim a relay against Watchung Hills as the Raiders used their depth, which is augmented by several freshman contributors. Temple knows what those freshmen are going through after being one herself last year.
“I’d say being through the program has definitely helped,” she said. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of the girls on the team. It helps to have some friends there that support you. One of the main thing of the high school meets that is different is everyone supports you. Being on the team for a year has helped me.”
That connection helps Temple want to swim her best for the Raiders. It’s a bond that is important for HHS swimmers to feel to give their top effort. Hillsborough and Temple are off to strong starts that are encouraging for their goals that are as high as ever.
“I feel like we really got the ball rolling,” Temple said. “We’re definitely very strong this year. I think we can go very far. We’ve definitely had a great start this season with very big wins over very big teams.”
Bu Justin Feil, Packet Media Group