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Freshman Mikayla Rapuano helped the North Haven girls’ swimming and diving team notch their best regular-season mark in school history with a record of 9-2 this fall. Mikayla’s top events are the 100 backstroke and the 100 butterfly. (Photo courtesy of Mikayla Rapuano )
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Mikayla Rapuano made an instant impact for the North Haven girls’ swimming and diving team when she joined the program as a freshman this fall. The Indians achieved their best regular-season record in program history by going 9-2, and Mikayla contributed to that success by swimming great times in several events. With the SCC Championship on the horizon, Mikayla is looking forward to competing in the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke at the meet.
Mikayla loves the fact that she helped Head Coach Martha Phelan’s squad make history this year. She feels proud that she’s faring well while swimming against athletes who are several years older than her.
Mikayla can swim a variety of events depending on the matchup, but she consistently performs well in the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke, having posted season-best marks of 1:03 and 1:04, respectively.
“My two best events are the 100 butterfly and then the 100 backstroke. Sometimes coach will put me in 200 IM [individual medley]. I also will swim in the 200 medley relay, as well,” Mikayla says. “As a freshman, getting two spots to swim for the high school squad is a big achievement.”
In addition to being a strong swimmer for the Indians, Mikayla competes on the USA Swimming circuit as a member of the Hamden-North Haven girls’ team. This past season, Mikayla turned in an impressive performance for any swimmer, let alone someone her age.
“I do swimming all-year round. I do swimming with the high school, then I move into the USA Swimming season,” says Mikayla. “I swim for Hamden-North Haven swimming. During our last postseason, I qualified for Senior Championships as a 13 year-old. That’s something I’m really proud of.”
Mikayla’s top events feature two of the more challenging and dissimilar strokes. While the backstroke and butterfly are vastly different, Mikayla brings a consistent approach to each of them.
“For both of those events, the strokes are very different and require different muscles. Also, those two races are very difficult. You have to pace yourself. You have to know when to go fast and when you can save up for the end of the race,” Mikayla says. “You have to know how to use your endurance. I think I know how to control that. That’s why I think those are my best.”
Mikayla first hit the water as a youngster because she wanted to play in her friend’s pool. Her love for the sport grew out of simply learning how to swim.
“When I moved to North Haven, my friends down the street had a pool. I didn’t know how to swim, so we thought it would be a good idea to take lessons. When I did, I loved it and decided to keep going,” says Mikayla. “I learned basic stuff like freestyle and how to keep myself above the water. After I realized that I really loved swimming, I took a clinic where I learned the competitive strokes.”
After several years of swimming, Mikayla has made some lasting relationships around the pool. Mikayla has several friends on the Hamden-North Haven team, and she’s strengthened those friendships while competing alongside the same girls with the Indians.
“The friendships that I developed in swimming have been so close. One of my favorite things I like to do is hang out with my swimming friends, because we have such a blast together,” Mikayla says. “We had a few older girls on our Hamden-North Haven team that were talking to us about swimming in high school. The more they talked about it, the more we got excited about joining the high school team.”
Coach Phelan values Mikayla’s contributions to her squad. Phelan says that Mikayla is a key factor behind North Haven’s success, and she’s eager to see what the freshman can do during the postseason.
“When Mikayla joined the team, I immediately realized the impact she would have. She has a huge voice in the lineup, and she lifts up her teammates. I’ve been so impressed by what she has done as a freshman,” says Phelan. “It can be so intimidating as a freshman. You can be swimming against an 18 year-old senior. She’s just a great competitor. I’m grateful to have her on the team and her ability to compete under pressure. She’s the kind of swimmer that every coach loves to have.”
Mikayla is excited to swim at the SCC Championship, after which the Indians will compete in the Class M State Championship. Most of all, though, Mikayla feels happy to be part of a welcoming team that features so many great people.
“I’d really like to thank Coach Martha Phelan. She’s put in a lot of time and hard work into practices and into training me. We finished our dual-meet season with a 9-2 record, and that’s the best North Haven has ever had. I want to thank her for getting us there,” says Mikayla, who also thanks her Hamden-North Haven coaches, Rick Lucan and Lynne Lucan. “The high school team has been so great and nice. It’s just a really great environment, and everyone is fully able to be themselves. It’s really awesome to be a part of.”
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