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The North Haven girls’ swimming and diving team captured its first state title in program history by finishing in first place at the Class M State Championship. The Indians won six events and saw several other solid performances on their way to unseating defending champion Hand for the crown at Southern Connecticut State University on Nov. 20. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Head Coach Martha Phelan hoists the championship plaque high after the Indians claimed the Class M state title. The victory put an exclamation point on a historic 2019 season for North Haven. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
North Haven’s athletes and coaches take a celebratory leap into the pool following a first-place finish at the Class M State Championship. The Indians scored a robust total of 622 points to bring the title back to North Haven. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Angela Gambardella finished first in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke and also swam on two victorious relays to help the Indians take the Class M crown. Gambardella broke school and Class M records in her individual events while winning both of them for the third year in a row at states. Each of the relays also set school records. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Maddie Bergin touches the finish line to win the 50 freestyle for the second-straight campaign at the Class M State Championship. Bergin also won the 100 freestyle for the second year in a row at the meet. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Freshman Mikayla Rapuano helped the Indians’ 200 medley relay earn first place and break the school record at last week’s Class M state meet. Rapuano also came in seventh place for both the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke as North Haven won its first state championship in the history of the team. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Taya Laborde takes off in the 200 freestyle relay for North Haven at states. Laborde and her teammates Angela Gambardella (pictured on the right), Riley Jooss, and Maddie Bergin took first place and also set a new school-record time in the event. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Mackenzie Montesi scored points for the Indians’ girls’ swimming and diving team by placing 17th in the 500 freestyle at the Class M State Championship. Performances like the one from Montesi scored key points that helped the Indians finish ahead of Hand to win their first state title. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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For the rest of their lives, the members of the North Haven girls' swimming and diving team can say that they are state champions. After placing second at states the past two seasons, North Haven came into the 2019 campaign with tons of talent and an unwavering determination to claim the first state title in program history. The Indians realized their dream last week when they dethroned defending champion Hand to finish in first place at the Class M State Championship at Southern Connecticut State University on Nov. 20.
North Haven put forth an excellent performance at the state meet by taking first place in four individual events and two relays, while setting four school records and breaking a pair of Class M records. Senior captain Angela Gambardella earned first place in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke, junior Maddie Bergin finished first in the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle, and both athletes swam on a pair of triumphant relays for Head Coach Martha Phelan's squad.
North Haven led the meet from wire to wire and essentially had the title locked up heading into the 400 freestyle relay, the last event of the night. When the final numbers were tallied, North Haven finished with 622 points to place ahead of Hand, which came in second place by scoring 599.5 points. The Indians celebrated their historic victory by taking a triumphant plunge into the pool.
"We're all so excited. This has been our goal since the beginning of the season. We know that Hand has some great competitors, so we kept that in our mind the entire season, and it's awesome to finally be here celebrating our state title," said Gambardella. "We wanted to win it so badly. The whole town was rooting for us. We wanted to represent North Haven and we did. It's exciting."
North Haven's first-place finish at the Class M meet capped off a landmark campaign for the Indians. During the regular season, North Haven finished with a program-best record of 9-2. After that, the Indians posted their all-time best showing at the SCC Championship by taking third place in the conference. Now, Coach Phelan and her athletes are state champions for the first time.
"This is special. It's not only historic for the team, but also for the town. North Haven has never had a state champion in swimming." Phelan said. "The girls were nervous, but they weren't rattled. They took that energy and put it into the pool. Even though it was close, I knew that we were going to do it. I'm just so proud of these girls. It's such a great feeling."
The Indians entered the swimming portion of the state meet with a 63-0 advantage over Hand after three athletes scored points for North Haven at the Class M Diving State Championship at Bulkeley High School on Nov. 13. Senior Ava Santacroce followed up her victory at SCCs by taking second place with a score of 402.55 points. Sophomore Chandler
Ceste-Martinez finished eighth with a lifetime-best score of 271.50, while senior captain Christina Stoeffler placed 11th with 238.35 points.
One week later, the Indians hit the water for the swimming competition and set the tone for a big night by capturing first place in the 200 medley relay. North Haven's quartet of sophomore Brooke Nebor, Gambardella, freshman Mikayla Rapuano, and Bergin recorded a time of 1:48.26 to place ahead of runner-up East Lyme (1:51.34), setting a school record in the process.
Later in the meet, the Indians' 200 freestyle relay team of Gambardella, sophomore Taya Laborde, junior Riley Jooss, and Bergin took first place with a school-record time of 1:39.76, edging out Masuk (1:40.44) for the top spot. Both of these relays were coming off victories at SCCs.
Gambardella also set school and Class M records in her two individual victories at the State Championship. In the 200 individual medley, Gambardella swam a time of 2:04.62 to defeat runner-up Anna Weinstein of Brookfield (2:09.13) and win the event at states for the third-straight season. Gambardella also won the 100 breaststroke for the third year in a row by finishing with a time of 1:02.27, beating out Nicole Hahn of East Lyme (1:05.68) for first place. Prior to states, Gambardella had finished first in the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke at the SCC Championship for the third-consecutive campaign.
"All of us did really good tonight. When our first relay won, that got the team pumped up, and then we just had high energy and it paid off," Gambardella said. "Going into the meet, we all knew that we had to do our part to try to get as many points as possible. I just wanted to do my best for the team and do my part, and the state title just came with it."
Bergin certainly did her part and then some to help North Haven claim the state crown. Bergin defended her Class M title in the 50 freestyle by swimming a time of 24.01 seconds to finish ahead of Elizabeth Stoelzel (24.32) for first place. She went to win the 100 freestyle for the second year in a row with a time of 52.52, getting the nod over runner-up Sydney Crawford of Lyman Memorial-Windham-Parish Hill (53.61). Bergin had previously won the 100 freestyle for the third-straight year and the 50 freestyle for the second-straight season at the SCC Championship.
"Everyone put their best foot forward and swam amazing times. It was a great season. We all worked hard in the pool six days a week for two-and-a-half hours a day, and it's great to know that all that hard word paid off," said Bergin, who was recently named to the 2019 USA Swimming Scholastic All-America Team. "I am over-the-moon excited for the entire team. It's crazy to know that all the things we accomplished this season had never happened before. We all feel so connected to each other, and to know that we did this together is amazing."
Gambardella, Bergin, and Santacroce garnered All-State accolades by virtue of their individual performances at the
Class M Championship. Gambardella additionally earned All-American honors with her victorious time in the 100 breaststroke. The Indians' 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays also made All-State. Gambardella, Bergin, Santacroce, and both relays qualified to compete at the State Open Championship.
While the six first-place finishes proved huge, North Haven never could have won the state title without a slew of sterling showings from plenty of other athletes. The Indians set themselves up for success at the championship by turning in several quality performances at the Class M Qualifying that took place at East Hartford High School on Nov. 16. As a result, North Haven had numerous entrants across the board in the finals, and every single one of them scored points that contributed to the title.
Nebor took fifth place in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:03.33 and also finished 14th in the 100 butterfly at 1:03.98. Rapuano came in seventh place in two events for North Haven. The freshman finished seventh in the 100 butterfly (1:01.57) and also took seventh place in the 100 backstroke (1:04.00). Jooss finished eighth in the 500 freestyle (5:36.06) and placed ninth for the 200 freestyle with a season-best mark of 2:01.23.
In the 400 freestyle relay, North Haven's team of Laborde, Rapuano, sophomore Giulia Faulkner, and Jooss took seventh place by recording a time of 3:52.20.
"It's a grind to make it to the finals, and the majority of the girls who swam at the qualifying made it back," Coach Phelan said. "They understood that they had to get into the best heat possible, and we couldn't have done it without all of those girls in the second and third heats."
Freshman Alice Scalmani swam lifetime-best times in each of her events at the championship. Scalmani finished ninth in the 200 IM with a time of 2:19.02 and placed 10th in the 100 breaststroke by clocking in at 1:11.33. Faulkner posted lifetime-best marks in both the 500 freestyle (5:37.70) and the 200 freestyle (2:06.27), while finishing in 10th and 11th place, respectively.
Junior Molly Coyle finished 11th in the 200 IM (2:20.10) and came in 17th place for the 100 butterfly (1:04.12), swimming lifetime-best times in both events. Senior Abby Kirtland swam a lifetime-best mark of 1:05.65 in her 13th-place finish in the 100 backstroke.
Laborde finished 14th in the 50 freestyle (26.26) and took 16th in the 100 freestyle (57.09) at the meet. Senior Mackenzie Montesi came in 17th place for the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:45.10.
Junior Alyssa Laborde placed 20th in the 100 freestyle by hitting the finish line in 59.74. Senior Gillian Regan finished 22nd in the 500 freestyle (5:55.94) and was 23rd in the 200 freestyle (2:12.21). Freshman Makenzie Alogna finished 23rd in the 200 IM with a time of 2:34.54 for North Haven.
"A lot of girls did their best times," said Phelan. "It wasn't just about the big winners. This was everybody. It was truly a total team effort."
North Haven's athletes never backed down from the challenge of winning the Class M title this year. The Indians set the goal at the beginning of the season and gave every ounce of energy they had to reach the top of the mountain. North Haven's dedication ultimately yielded the much-coveted state championship—and it's an accomplishment that will be etched in cement forever.
"Every single person in North Haven should be proud, knowing that we represented our school with pride and put in so much hard work," Bergin said. "We were determined and persevered through every obstacle. It's so rewarding for everybody and knowing that it will always be there is absolutely amazing."
From the Sidelines
The North Haven girls' swimming and diving team's roster includes senior captains Angela Gambardella and Christina Stoeffler; seniors Mia Coppola, Abby Kirtland, Mackenzie Montesi, Gillian Regan, and Ava Santacroce; juniors Maddie Bergin, Molly Coyle, Ava Guidone, Riley Jooss, Alyssa Laborde, and Nicole Reynolds; sophomores Chandler Ceste-Martinez, Giulia Faulkner, Grace Finch, Olivia Grimm, Taya Laborde, Brooke Nebor, Abrielle Osborne, and Sarthi Shah; and freshmen Makenzie Alogna, Victoria Pachnik, Mikayla Rapuano, Alice Scalmani, and Tara Stoeffler.
Martha Phelan is in the seventh season of her second stint as head coach of the Indians. Phelan first served as head coach from 2001 to 2005. In 2013, Phelan took over as North Haven's head coach for a second time. Bob Lewis has been North Haven's diving coach since the 2013 campaign.
North Haven finished with a program-best record of 9-2 during the regular season. The Indians posted victories versus Sacred Heart Academy (97-79), East Haven-Wilbur Cross (101-71), West Haven (95-81), Guilford (92-74), Lauralton Hall (98-88), Foran (97-79), Hand (102-81), Branford (92-83), and Shelton (94-79) in regular-season action. North Haven's only two defeats were against Cheshire (94-84) and Amity (95-89). The Indians' win over Lauralton Hall marked their first versus the Crusaders in program history.
North Haven started off its postseason by finishing in third place with 803 points scored at the SCC Championship at Southern Connecticut State University on Nov. 4. This performance marked the Indians' best finish at the SCC meet in the history of the program.
North Haven recently held its end-of-season team dinner. At the event, Gambardella and Bergin were named co-Most Valuable Players for the Indians. Stoeffler received the Sportsmanship Award, and Ceste-Martinez was named selected as North Haven's Most Improved Player.
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