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Article Published November 22, 2021

Hand Girls’ Swimming Claims Class M State Crown

By By Dean Bibens

Head Coach Jen Lyman had big expectations for the Hand girls’ swimming and diving team coming into the 2021 season. The Tigers fulfilled their coach’s goals when they took first place at the Class M State Championship last week, giving Hand its second state title in program history.

Bolstered by depth in multiple events and a win from senior Grace Sweeney in the 100 butterfly, Hand scored 522 points to claim the Class M crown when the state meet was held at Cornerstone Aquatic Center in West Hartford on Nov. 16. The Tigers placed ahead of runner-up and defending champion North Haven, which scored 445 points, to take back the title that they last won 2018.

“This season was one that was so rewarding. This team is the prime example that every teammate and every performance matters,” Coach Lyman said. “It wasn’t just a handful of talent, but the depth of having so many swimmers with a great, competitive spirit is what propelled us to the top.”

Hand got out to a strong start at the Class M State Championship by taking second place in the first event of the evening, the 200-yard medley relay. The Tigers’ team of freshman Seorin Kim, freshman Samantha Chemacki, Sweeney, and senior captain Kacie Wines recorded a time of 1:53.48 to earn runner-up honors in the event.

Chemacki followed that performance up with a fourth-place finish in the 200 freestyle with a time of 2:01.49. Freshman Lillian Miller finished seventh (2:03.47), and fellow freshman Ariana Potter placed ninth (2:05.53) for Hand in the 200 free. Chemacki also finished in seventh place in the 100 breaststroke with a 1:09.92.

Hand had three point scorers in the 200 individual medley. Senior Abbi Chemacki finished fifth in place (2:18.72), junior Julia Urbowicz came in 11th place (2:23.91), and sophomore Haley Wines finished in 19th (2:28.07). In the 50 freestyle, Kacie Wines (26.08) and Kim (26.93) finished in 9th and 18th place, respectively, on behalf of Coach Lyman’s squad.

Lyman said that Hand’s seniors piloted the team to the state title this year.

“I was really proud of how everyone performed in this meet, but my seniors—Grace Sweeney, Abbi Chemacki, and Kacie Wines—were the leaders of this team. They gave through their leadership in the pool in each competition,” said Lyman. “The versatility that was needed in their abilities to swim a variety of events and their willingness to swim in so many events was important to our success.”

Following the 50 freestyle, Sweeney swam to a first-place finish in the 100 butterfly for the Tigers. Sweeney posted a time of 58.30 to edge out North Haven’s Mikayla Rapuano (58.63) for the victory. Urbowicz finished 12th (1:05.69) for the 100 fly, and Haley Wines took 18th place (1:07.27) in the event.

Kacie Wines finished fifth in the 100 freestyle with a time of 56.62 at states. Miller claimed eighth place (57.88) in the event. Sophomore Norah Stotz finished in 18th place (59.32).

As she celebrated her team’s big victory, Kacie Wines said that the Tigers’ tight-knit chemistry played a huge role in helping them bring the state gold back home to Madison.

“The team is like a second family to me,” Wines said. “Our head coach understands what each of us can best contribute for the good of the team and keeps us focused on doing our jobs. We want each other to succeed and look for ways to make that happen. Our entire team culture is built on being excellent swimmers, students, and teammates, and we will benefit from that for a lifetime.”

Hand kept piling up the points as the state meet progressed. In the 500 freestyle, Sweeney finished in second place with a time of 5:11.63, and Abbi Chemacki took third place in the event by finishing in 5:18.86. Potter placed eighth (5:44.76), and Hoban finished in 22nd place (6:09.03).

Abbi Chemacki said that the Tigers struck the right balance between working hard and having fun this fall.

“When it was time to work, we worked really, really hard. But I also learned how important our time together on the bus, on the pool deck, dressing up for spirit days, and goofing around at practice was for bonding us together,” said Chemacki. “Jumping into the pool arm in arm as an entire team after we won state championships was probably the highlight for all of us.”

Hand’s 200 freestyle relay team of Potter, Miller, Haley Wines, and Urbowicz finished ninth with a time of 1:48.57 at the state meet. In the 100 backstroke, Kim finished in sixth place (1:03.30), and Stotz finished 15th (1:08.30).

The Tigers’ capped off their stellar performance at states by taking second place in the final event of the meet, the 400 freestyle relay. Hand’s quartet of Miller, Sweeney, Samantha Chemacki and Kacie Wines notched a time of 3:45.12 to finish second for the event.

Wines said that she couldn’t have imagined a better finish to her Hand swimming career than to share a state championship with her fellow seniors. With so many talented underclass athletes on the roster, Wines feels that the Tigers are in great shape for years to come.

“Abbi and Grace Sweeney are inspiring in their dedication for the sport, and they are so much fun to watch,” Wines said. “Grace is a total speedster, and Abbi swims with the heart of a lion. She builds the back half of her distance races, so that she is speeding up when everyone else is slowing down. We also have a crop of underclassmen who are tough beyond their years. I’m so proud to be their teammate.”

A few days after winning states, the Tigers sent several athletes to compete at State Open at Cornerstone Aquatic Center on Nov. 21. Hand scored 72 points and finished in 22nd place for the State Open standings.

Sweeney finished seventh in both the 100 butterfly and the 500 freestyle at the State Open. Sweeney swam a time of 57.51 in the 100 fly and recorded a mark of 5:10.03 in the 500 free. Abby Chemacki finished 15th in the 100 butterfly with a time of 5:14.88.

Hand’s 200 medley relay of Kim, Samantha Chemacki, Sweeney, and Kacie Wines finished in 20th place (1:54.58) at the Open. The Tigers’ 400 freestyle relay of Sweeney, Kacie Wines, Samantha Chemacki, and Miller finished in 22nd place (3:47.64).

The Hand girls’ swimming and diving team’s roster features senior captains Abbi Chemacki and Kacie Wines; senior Grace Sweeney; senior manager Catherine Arrandale; juniors Hannah Campbell and Julia Urbowicz; sophomores Rachel Gentil, Molly Hoban, Lucy Schwarz, Norah Stotz, and Haley Wines; sophomore manager Olivia Hansen-Hartmann; and freshmen Juliana Bell, Emily Butler, Samantha Chemacki, Georgia Cohen, Seorin Kim, Aniella Lesnik, Lillian Miller, Ariana Potter, and Lily Vest. Head Coach Jen Lyman is assisted by Assistant Coach Christina Forristall.