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Article Published March 6, 2020

Kamen’s a Leader in the Water

By By Dean Bibens

Dan Kamen wasn’t sure what to expect when he heard the news that the Guilford co-op boys’ swimming diving and team would be evolving into a larger squad this season. A junior at Guilford High School, Dan knew that there would be plenty of talent to go around, although he didn’t know many of his new teammates, and initially felt anxious. However, it didn’t take long for Dan to jell with his cohorts on the Greater New Haven Warriors.

“The first practice was nerve-wracking for me,” says Dan. “I was swimming with a bunch of kids I didn’t know, but everyone was super nice and welcoming, which made the transition a lot easier than I expected it to be.”

The Warriors feature 27 athletes from Guilford, North Haven, North Branford, and East Haven. GNH is coached by Martha Phelan, who is also head coach of the North Haven girls’ swimming and diving team and coached North Haven’s boys’ swim team before the co-op was founded.

Dan had been named a captain for Guilford’s co-op team at the end of last season. When the Warriors formed, Coach Phelan stuck with him as one of their captains for this year.

“Every school that came together on this team had captains already picked out at the end of last season. These kids all worked hard for that title, and I knew Dan was deserving of it the second I saw him start practicing that first day,” Phelan says. “It became very obvious that Dan was going to be a front-line swimmer for our program.”

Dan feels right at home on a Warriors’ team that has developed strong chemistry in a short span of time. Dan embraces the team aspect of the sport, but he also likes that he has to rely on himself when he’s striving to swim top-notch marks for his squad.

“While swimming does have some team aspects to it, your results are largely dependent on how you swim individually,” says Dan, who started swimming with the Soundview Family YMCA Stingrays in Branford when he was eight. “I like having that control and being able to dictate the outcome of my race.”

Dan is seeing some outstanding outcomes in the water this winter. He’s already qualified for the Class LL State Championship in the 200 individual medley with a personal-best time of 2:13.52 and is on the brink of qualifying for the 100 butterfly with his top mark of 58.63. Dan’s other signature events are the 100 freestyle, in which he has a best time of 54.05, along with the 200 freestyle (1:58.10) and the 500 freestyle (5:27).

“The fly is definitely my favorite swim out of all the ones I compete in,” Dan says. “I love it, because it’s such a unique swim. Half of my race is swam underwater, and I enjoy the initial exploring when I come back up to the surface. It’s awesome.”

Coach Phelan appreciates how valuable Dan’s versatility is to the Warriors’ success. GNH recently completed a regular season that saw the team post a record of 8-2 and finish atop the SCC Division II standings.

“Dan is someone that I can really count on to swim in pretty much any event,” says Phelan. “He always puts the team first, and he’s helped us win a lot of meets this season.”

Dan has big expectations for himself at the Warriors’ postseason meets. Still, Dan knows that it’s important to take it one race at a time.

“The goal is to win at states, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself,” Dan says. “Qualifying [for states] in the 200 IM is big, because I don’t have to worry about still trying to qualify at SCCs in that event. It takes a lot of the pressure off of me. I think I’m peaking at the right time, too, so that will be crucial to my success.”

Dan sharpens his skills as a swimmer by competing with the Stingrays throughout the offseason. When he graduates from Guilford, Dan wants to continue his career at the collegiate level.

“I’m only a junior,” says Dan. “But I’d definitely like to compete in college if given the opportunity.”