Sports Person of the Week
Maddie Bergin: An All-Time Great North Haven Swimmer
Senior captain Maddie Bergin finished her career with the North Haven girls’ swimming and diving team as a four-time All-SCC and All-State honoree who has five individual and two relay school records to her credit. Last year, Maddie helped North Haven win its first state championship in team history. (Photo courtesy of Maddie Bergin )
Maddie Bergin will go down as one of the greatest athletes in the history of North Haven sports. Maddie recently completed a four-year career with the North Haven girls’ swimming and diving team that saw her set several school records, post multiple postseason victories, and lead her team to a state championship.
Maddie finished her high school career having set five individual school records, in addition to swimming on a pair of record-setting relays. Maddie earned All-Southern Connecticut Conference, All-State, and New Haven Register All-Area honors in all four of her seasons at North Haven. After helping North Haven win the Class M state title last year, Maddie served as a senior captain through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Maddie will always have fond memories of claiming a state title with her teammates. While North Haven turned in an outstanding performance as a whole, Maddie’s contributions played a huge part in the historic victory.
“I will never forget my junior year, when we won our first state title. We worked so hard that season and the years prior to achieve that goal. It was amazing to see everyone put their best foot forward and achieve that as a team,” Maddie says. “I swam the 50 freestyle, the 100 freestyle, the 200 medley relay, and the 200 freestyle relay. I always had it in my head that I’m not swimming for myself, but for the whole team. Trying my best helps the entire team, and knowing that kept me motivated.”
Maddie finished first in the 50 freestyle two times at the Class M State Championship and won the 100 freestyle twice at the state meet during her time at North Haven. She also took first in the 50 freestyle twice and won the 100 freestyle three times at the SCC Championship. On top of that, Maddie swam for several relay teams that finished first in both SCCs and states.
Unfortunately, North Haven was unable to defend its state crown due to the cancellation of this year’s State Championship meets. During the regular season, all of North Haven’s meets were held virtually with no opponents in the other the lanes. Despite that challenge, Maddie felt that North Haven performed admirably this fall.
“I feel that given the circumstances we had this season—not having other teams in the pool and swimming virtually—once we learned to race ourselves and the clock, we swam our best times and overcame the adversity. We had an amazing season. We overcame a lot,” says Maddie. “I definitely learned that every practice matters and every meet matters. You never know when the season is going to stop or if you’ll get pool time. We had to work constantly to overcome every obstacle that this pandemic threw our way.”
Maddie capped off her North Haven swimming career by breaking five school records this year. Maddie set top marks in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle—two records that she already held—to go with school-record performances in the 200 freestyle, the 500 freestyle, and the 100 butterfly. Even without a rival swimmer in the next lane, Maddie was still able to record some excellent times in her senior season.
“In years past, I always pushed myself against the people next to me, but you never know what that person next to you is working for. I learned you have to push yourself. When you’re in the middle of a race, you really don’t know what your time is going to be,” Maddie says. “It was definitely different this year, but I felt like I’ve trained myself to race myself and the clock. So, it wasn’t so different than it was in the past.”
Maddie took second place in both the 50 and 100 freestyle events at the SCC Virtual Championship on her way to being named the SCC Division I Athlete of the Year for girls’ swimming and diving as a senior. While Maddie wasn’t able to partake in her typical offseason training, Head Coach Martha Phelan came up some with some alternatives to help Maddie stay in shape.
“I was out of the water for 3 ½ months. I hated every second of it. Martha would send me dry-land routines. I did what I could to keep myself fit while socially distanced,” says Maddie. “When I got back in the water, it was like working from the bottom up. It took a toll on my body. I think all the dry-land work and hiking did help. If I didn’t have that, I would have been the lowest I’ve been physically. I was nervous that I wouldn’t go into the season at the same speed as last year. Then the season got started, and I started to feel good.”
Maddie wasn’t just focused on her own performances this year. The senior captain also made it her goal to help her teammates improve every day.
“It was a big accomplishment to be awarded captain alongside the other two captains. I knew I had to put my best foot forward, and I knew I had to motivate everyone, especially this season. The biggest goal was to keep everyone motivated and knowing they are swimming for a reason. Swim your best every day, practice or meet,” Maddie says. “In years past, the goal was to win the state title. Coach Martha was motivating us every day. I took that motivation that I learned from her and the last captains and put it into this season, knowing it would be different than every season before.”
Maddie has come a long way as a swimmer considering her inauspicious start in the water. Maddie says that she was “petrified of water” until she started swimming when she was seven.
“My parents got me in the water and told me to stick it out. I used to refuse to put my head under the water. It’s crazy to think about,” says Maddie. “Once I started getting used to water, learning the strokes and the techniques, it was really fun. When I figured out I could compete and be a real swimmer, it grabbed my attention. Then I went to Hamden Hall, where Martha coached. It’s going to be weird to have someone different. She’ll always be there, though. I have to give a big thanks to Martha for helping me become the athlete I am now.”
Coach Phelan feels proud about what Maddie has accomplished throughout the past several years. Phelan has coached Maddie for more than a decade, and it’s bittersweet to see the senior captain moving on to the next chapter of her career.
“I knew I was getting an incredible gift as a coach when Maddie came to North Haven, and I was going to have a big challenge in fostering her natural talent,” says Phelan. “Of course, I will always be her coach when she leaves North Haven, but it’s emotional for coaches, teachers, and others that have young adults under their wing for a long time. You see them move on, and you’re sad to see them go.”
“Maddie never plateaued. Each year, she was faster, and her repertoire got broader,” Phelan continues. “I feel like Maddie saved her best for last. She had an amazing season, despite all the strangeness of competition this year. She has left a big mark on the swim program and in the classroom at North Haven. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Maddie will attend Division I Fordham University in New York City next year. Maddie is going to major in communications, while continuing her swimming career at the school, and doing both of those things will be a dream come true for her.
“When I was a kid, I loved New York City. I loved going with my parents in the city. Choosing Fordham was about both academics and swimming, I knew I wanted to swim DI and, academically, I was looking for a prestigious college. I want to major in communications. I want to be a news anchor. I want to focus on journalism and broadcasting,” Maddie says. “I love writing, and I read all the time. That love for writing has sparked my love to go into journalism and be a news anchor. Fordham is a perfect fit. I love it, and I’m so incredibly excited.”