Quakers confident, eager to build off last year’s success

Moorestown’s girls swimming team went 22 years in between the only two state championships in program history. Despite losing 11 seniors, the Quakers are deep and talented enough to make sure a title drought won’t start this winter.

DSC_0125, 127, 126: Moorestown High School’s girls swimming team should be in good shape with Allie Waggoner, Holly Robinson, and Emily Wisniewski all back from last year’s state championship team. The trio swam the last three legs of the 400-free relay, the race that clinched last year’s state title, the program’s first since 1995. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

The lonely number 1995 got a friend last school year.

The black championship banner for Moorestown High School girls swimming team that is adorned to the school gymnasium wall has a fresh, new, yellow 2018 next to it after the Quakers captured the school’s second state title (and first in 23 years) last winter.

A big reason for Moorestown’s most recent state title was the sheer number of talented swimmers on the team. They’d regularly place multiple girls in the top four or five spots and all of those extra points turned out to be crucial in making the leap from contender to champion.

The bad news, as the 2018–19 season was about to get underway: Moorestown lost 11 senior swimmers to graduation last June. The good news, though? It’s possible that, when the playoffs roll around later this winter, this Quakers team could be deeper than last year’s championship squad.

“I think we have even more this year,” said senior Holly Robinson, who will swim at Emory University next year. “So I think that should pay off.”

Moorestown coach John Battersby, in his seventh year as head coach and ninth with the program, realizes it’s not quite as simple as filtering new players into the lineup. The Quakers will certainly feel the loss of the Class of ’18, in both talent and leadership.

But he has a decent crop of proven, veteran championship swimmers back and quite a few new faces, too.

“Obviously (those seniors) will be missed,” he said. “But we have a pretty decent freshman class that will come in and help us counterbalance what we lost.”

The Quakers also have the last three legs of their 400-free relay, the race that clinched the state title over Scotch Plains-Fanwood, back for this season in Robinson, Allie Waggoner and Emily Wisniewski.

Last February, Wisniewski followed Robinson in the pool and raced her way to victory as the relay’s final leg. Robinson and Wisniewski also won two individual events each in the championship meet.

The Quakers are trying to brush last season aside and focus on the new year — “New Team, Same Dream” is the motto — but the experiences from last year have obviously increased the current team’s confidence and motivation moving forward.

“It makes me look at our team differently,” Wisniewski said. “I can see the potential that we have this year. I didn’t really recognize it last year, because it was my sophomore year and I was just doing what everybody else was. This year, I can really see we have the potential to go again and maybe even win again.”

“It was cool freshman year, I wasn’t expecting it,” Waggoner said. “So I’m hoping to do it again. It would be great to repeat, but I want to stay safe. I’m hoping for the best.”

Although most of the winter sports season began on Dec. 14, the swimmers were off earlier this year. Moorestown collected its season-opening, 121–48 win over Cherokee on Dec. 5.

“It’s one meet at a time,” Waggoner said. “(A win over Cherokee) was one check, and then we have a bunch more we have to do.”

“We’re checking boxes,” Battersby said. “I like to say one step forward a lot. We take it one step at a time. Keep taking your steps and hopefully we’ll get to that goal.”

The ultimate goal is still more than two months away. But a part of being a championship-caliber team is understanding that both mastering and enjoying the journey of the regular season is just as important as capitalizing on the moment in the postseason.

Moorestown checked off an important box for its program with last year’s state championship. Now the trick is establishing itself as a program to be reckoned with year after year.

As the season was just getting underway, Battersby is already appreciating his team’s mentality in hoping to make that ultimate goal a reality.

“It’s definitely exciting, and you can see that excitement in the kids every day we go to practice or when they get in the pool for a meet,” he said. “But at the same time, we have to keep ourselves in check. Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is written. On paper we’re a decent team, but we have to get in there and swim.

“I’m happy that I see the same relentlessness. The way I described our team last year was that we were relentless. We came after you with wave after wave after wave, we did not let you take a breath, we did not let you get back in in a certain event, we just kept pushing and pushing and pushing.

“And to the girls’ credit, they’ve taken that idea and maximized even more on it this year. We’re pushing, pushing and pushing. We’re going to make other teams push themselves to their absolute best if they want to compete with us.”