First place finish at SJISA Invitational gives Moorestown girls swimming a boost

The Quakers believe they’ve re-gained their confidence following two January dual meet losses.

The Moorestown High School girls swimming team celebrates after taking first place in the A Division at the SJISA Coaches’ Invitational on Jan. 26. (Submitted Photo)

Entering the South Jersey Interscholastic Swimming Association Coaches’ Invitational on Jan. 26, Moorestown High School girls swimming had a 9–2 dual meet record and appeared ready to make a run at a second straight state championship.

However, after losing a pair of meets in January, the team needed a spark.

“After losing to (Cherry Hill) East and losing to Haddonfield, we took a look at ourselves and realized we weren’t the best in South Jersey like we thought we were,” senior Annabel Gorman said. “So I think this past weekend we came in with a different attitude.”

The Quakers’ new attitude translated to a team title at the Coaches’ Invitational. Moorestown took first place in the girls’ A Division with 276.5 points and finished the meet with a record-breaking swim from the 400-yard freestyle relay team.

It was the second straight year the Quakers took first place at the Coaches’ Invitational. Last year, Moorestown finished in first place in the B Division. However, senior Holly Robinson said this year’s first-place finish, competing in the A division with the larger schools, felt different.

“Last year, that meet wasn’t the turning point of the season,” she said. “This year, we haven’t had the greatest season in terms of what we wanted to do in the dual meets. Having this win showed us what we’re capable of doing.”

“It’s going to fuel us for the future and hopefully help us to repeat that,” freshman Catie Shawaryn added.

The team was also happy about how they were able to finish 46.5 points ahead of Cherry Hill East just a few weeks after losing to them in a dual meet, showing the progress of the team.

“It was just a confidence boost,” head coach John Battersby said. “I don’t think our confidence was at where it was last year, and for us to show up and do what we did, I feel as confident now as I’ve felt all season.”

Moorestown took first place in the team standings thanks to a slew of second-, third- and fourth-place finishes. The Quakers only had one first-place finisher the entire day, but still finished ahead of second-place Egg Harbor Township and third-place Cherry Hill East. Moorestown’s relay teams were a huge help, finishing in third place or better in all three relay events.

A big reason for Moorestown’s success has been the emergence of some of the team’s young swimmers. Shawaryn said the upperclassmen do a good job of helping the younger swimmers acclimate to the high school atmosphere.

“The new girls are a little hesitant at first,” Battersby added. “High school swimming is different than club swimming or even summer swimming. It’s a lot more intense, a lot more fast-paced. I think the upperclassmen and the captains really took them under their wing.”

The Quakers capped off a great day with an incredible performance from the 400-yard freestyle relay team. Robinson, Shawaryn, Allie Waggoner and Emily Wisniewski swam a 3:39.35 in the freestyle relay, breaking the meet record of 3:40.05 previously set by Shawnee High School in 2002. Setting the record was a pleasant surprise for the swimmers, who said they were simply trying to hit the mark of 3:48.29 that would allow the relay team to qualify for the individual state championships in March.

“My mindset was going to be to just swim it and see what happens,” Shawaryn said.

Robinson, the final swimmer in the relay, admitted she was nervous going into the event, especially swimming next to Cherry Hill East’s Grace Yoon, a close friend and one of South Jersey’s best swimmers. After she hit the wall with the record time, she realized the group had easily broken the state qualifying time, but didn’t know about the record.

“When Coach Battersby came up to us and asked, ‘Do you guys know what you just did,’ we replied that we made the state cut,” Robinson said. “He said, ‘no, you guys got the meet record.’”

“It was a nice surprise,” Shawaryn said with a laugh.

“Once the girls came out for that 400 free relay, you could tell they were confident,” Battersby added. “I didn’t know a 17-year-old meet record was going to go down, but I knew something special was going to happen.”

The Quakers plan to ride the wave of momentum they built up from their invitational victory into the playoffs. Robinson said repeating as Group B state champions remains the team’s ultimate goal, but they’re not looking too far ahead.

“We’re all in a positive place right now,” she said. “Coming off of the win this past weekend, we’re just taking it one meet at a time. We can’t predict the future. You have no idea what’s going to happen.”