Seneca boys swimming reaches new heights in 2017

The Golden Eagles clinched their first ever South Jersey Interscholastic Swim League Arctic Division championship on Wednesday.

The 2017 senior class on the Seneca High School boys swimming team never imagined it would win anything of significance at the high school level.

None of those seniors had ever participated in competitive swimming prior to joining Seneca during the 2013–14 year. The next three years featured lots of growing pains and lots of losses, as the Golden Eagles tried to find their way in the pool.

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This season, however, Seneca has turned a corner. With the seniors much improved from three seasons ago and a batch of younger swimmers with club experience, the Golden Eagles are having their best season in program history. After defeating Camden County Technical School, 110–60, on Wednesday, Seneca improved to 6–2 and clinched its first-ever South Jersey Interscholastic Swim League Arctic Division championship.

Senior Paulie Wenger was still at a loss for words after last Wednesday’s meet. He never imagined the team would become division champions during his time in high school.

“If you told us we would win three meets in the same season, I would’ve have thought it was crazy,” Wenger said.

Seneca boys swimming has made significant strides in the last few years. Head coach Chrissy Gerber recalls when her current senior class tried out for the team and how it was coaching swimmers who were just starting the sport.

“The seniors we have now, they had never swam competitively before they came to high school,” Gerber said.

“When they were freshmen, they couldn’t dive into the pool,” she added. “They couldn’t do any of the strokes, they could only do freestyle.”

The losses piled up in the early years. Many of the seniors still remember some of the tough moments from their first couple of seasons.

“We would lose by 60, 70 points,” senior John Flemming said.

“There was one team that showed up with almost no guys and we still lost to mostly girls,” senior Justin Tuman recalled. “Morale was very low.”

Last season, Seneca earned just two wins. This year, it has improved greatly in part to an influx of young swimmers with club experience. Underclassmen such as George Schmidling, Jon Brown and Matt Evans have recorded dozens of first-place finishes in the dual meet season for the Golden Eagles.

“They’ve been awesome,” Flemming said. “With them coming in, we get a lot more first-place finishes,”

The seniors have also played a huge role, providing depth for the Golden Eagles and allowing Seneca to rack up more second- and third-place points. Gerber has seen how far many of her seniors have come in just a few years.

“They got all of the technique down, and that propelled them to being as good as they are now,” she said.

Another huge part of the team’s success has been the close relationship between the older and younger kids. Gerber feels the seniors helped build a family culture at Seneca, and it has been essential in improving the program.

“The group of boys on my team are the nicest kids,” she said. “They are the nicest kids in general, in life. They found a place where they were part of a family.”

“We have a lot of fun,” senior Jake Anderson said. “We have a good relationship with all the other kids. Everyone’s friendly.”

The seniors credited Gerber for her work in building the program. They feel she drove them to improve over the past three years and played a huge role in making Seneca into a winning team this season.

“She makes sure we have the right people in the right events,” Wenger said.

“No matter if we win or lose, she always treats us the same,” Flemming said. “(The coaches) built a good culture.”

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