Sports Person of the Week
Laborde Adores Swimming for North Haven
Junior Taya Laborde has made history as a member of the North Haven girls’ swimming and diving squad during the first half of her high school career. (Photo courtesy of Taya Laborde )
Taya Laborde admits that she was nervous when it was time for the 200 freestyle relay at the 2019 Class M State Championship. While she may have been nervous, Taya knew that she had to succeed and that she had the support of her teammates behind her. They wound up putting forth a historic performance.
Taya, then a sophomore, joined forces with senior captain Angela Gambardella and juniors Maddie Bergin and Riley Jooss to finish the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:39.76 at states. The quartet not only claimed first place, they set a school record for the event, while helping the North Haven girls’ swimming and diving team win its first state title in program history. Now, Taya is gearing up for her junior season with North Haven.
“I was very nervous when I heard I was going to be on the relay team with all upperclassmen, but they encouraged me and made me feel so important to the relay team,” says Taya. “I did my all-time best in that relay, and it was amazing. It was such a proud moment for us all.”
Taya’s early success at North Haven is impressive considering that she didn’t start swimming competitively until the 7th grade. Taya participated in other sports such as dance, ice skating, and soccer as a youngster, but found that swimming was the sport she connected with the best. Taya joined the Hamden-North Haven Swimming team when she was 12, beginning her career in the pool.
“It came very natural to me. As soon as we got in the pool, it was almost as though I understood everything about it,” Taya says. “The strokes were just natural to me. After the first three months, I was catching up to other people. I just wanted to win. It just felt right for me to swim.”
As soon as she started swimming competitively, Taya became a freestyle sprinter. Her regular events include the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle. At last year’s state meet, Taya finished 14th in the 50 freestyle with a time of 26.26 seconds and took 16th in the 100 free at 57.09.
“I get to release all of my energy,” says Taya of sprinting. “As soon as I get in the water, I’m not even afraid anymore. I’m just thinking about getting to the finish line. It helps me release everything.”
It was a big transition for Taya when she joined North Haven as a freshman, but she quickly bonded with all of her teammates and coaches. Taya credits North Haven Head Coach Martha Phelan and Diving Coach Bob Lewis for her progression in the pool, saying that she “wouldn’t be the swimmer I am today” without them.
Coach Phelan has seen Taya make rapid improvements throughout the past two seasons. Phelan is impressed with Taya’s ability to build off of her successes each year and knows that she played an important role in North Haven’s run to the state title last fall.
“Taya was one of those swimmers that each year she came back, she continued to improve. Her times continued to drop, which is what any coach would want,” Phelan says. “What’s so great about Taya is that when the team needed her most, she really prevailed in our quest for a state title. She was a big part of our success. In her two events, she posted her best times. She’s a great kid.”
As she enters her junior year, Taya is determined to continue lowering her times. Taya’s older sister Alyssa is serving as one of North Haven’s senior captains with Bergin and Jooss this year. Taya says that swimming alongside her sister brings some friendly competition with each of them supporting one another every step of the way.
In just a few years, Taya has gone from swimming in her backyard pool to being a state champion and a member of a record-breaking relay team. While she never expected to find this level of success so quickly, Taya says that competing for North Haven gives her the motivation to become the best swimmer she can be.
“I’m very prideful. I’m very proud of it,” says Taya. “I feel really accomplished for what I’ve done and the team has done. The coaches have been wonderful. Everything is great.”