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Riley Jooss swam on a school-record 200 freestyle relay as a freshman last fall and wants to have an even more memorable sophomore year with the North Haven girls’ swimming and diving squad. (Photo courtesy of Riley Jooss )
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Riley Jooss is out to a great start in her career with the North Haven girls’ swimming and diving team. In her freshman season, Riley swam on a 200 freestyle relay that set a school record and came in first place at the Class M State Championship, while helping North Haven take second place as a team. Now a sophomore, Riley is looking to accomplish even bigger things alongside her teammates this season.
Riley has impressed North Haven Head Coach Martha Phelan with her progression since the two started working together nearly eight years ago. Phelan’s daughter, Colleen Delaney-McCarthy, suggested that Riley start swimming during the summer, and Riley quickly developed a passion for the sport.
“When I was little, I always liked being near the water. Colleen told me it was a good idea to start swimming in the summer recreationally, because it was something to do,” says Riley. “I turned out to love it and have done swimming ever since. I have been around the pool virtually my whole life.”
Phelan coached Riley on a couple of different teams long before Riley started high school. Aside from swimming for the Indians, Riley is a member of Phelan’s year-round swim team at Hamden Hall, as well as her summer club team. Phelan says that Riley is a studious swimmer who’s always looking for ways to improve.
“Riley works really hard and she has matured to the point where, instead of me reaching out to her and giving her tips, she has now become very clear not only in her commitment to the pool, but taking it a step further and asking how she can be better,” Phelan says. “I’m more than happy to work with kids that show that kind of dedication. Of all the things I’ve seen since she started, she’s very mature and wants to be the best that she can be.”
Coach Phelan views Riley’s commitment to swimming as a huge positive. Riley is in the pool six days a week and puts in about two and a half hours per session.
“I get up at 5 a.m. once a week to swim for an hour and a half before school and then go back to the pool after school. It’s a lot of time and dedication, but it always comes back to the swim meets,” Riley says. “When I’m at a meet, that reminds me why I put in so much effort. Especially when I set a personal record, it shows all the hard work has paid off and makes me feel good. It reminds me to keep going for as far as I can with the sport.”
Riley swims a multitude of events for the Indians, including the 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly, and the 200 individual medley, along with the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Riley says that her favorite event is the 100 fly.
“I like it because it’s different from the other strokes, because you have to move your arms and legs at the same time. I feel it’s faster, because it’s all one steady motion,” she says. “I just like how it is all one big motion, whereas in back, breast, or free, it’s not as smooth. I think that’s what always made me be fast in that.”
While Riley feels the butterfly is her best event, she’s also proving a steady performer in the freestyle events for North Haven. Last year, Riley and her teammates, Angela Gambardella, Laura Borrelli, and Maddie Bergin, took first place in the 200 freestyle relay with a school-record time of 1:40.89 at the Class M State Championship. Bergin is Riley’s cousin.
“It was great to be a part of a relay that was also a great friendship between me and the other girls in the sense that we all get along very well,” says Riley. “Which in turn, allowed us to want to accomplish the same goal, which in this case, was breaking the record as a team.”
Riley wants to continue building her skills in the pool throughout the next three seasons. With a solid freshman year already under her belt, Riley has high hopes about she and her team can accomplish for North Haven.
“My goal throughout these next three years is to continue to better myself as a teammate and a swimmer. I want to reach better times and be a part of a team that is always there for each other,” Riley says. “I hope to be in a lot more relays, because I really like working as a group. That’s what makes it a team sport—us working together.”
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