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Gambardella Caps Off High School Swim Career with Storybook Season
Senior captain Angela Gambardella finished her career as a North Haven swimmer by leading the Indians to their first state championship last fall. Angela took first place in each of her signature events at the meet, while breaking school and Class M records in both of them. (Photo courtesy of Angela Gambardella )
Head Coach Martha Phelan knew that she had something special when Angela Gambardella joined the North Haven girls’ swimming and diving team as a freshman in 2016. Phelan could tell right away that Angela was going to make an immense impact on the squad, and that’s exactly what happened as the next four seasons unfolded.
Angela recently hit the finish line on a high school career that saw her achieve a tremendous level of individual success, while helping the Indians make history as a team. In her senior season, Angela guided North Haven to its first state title in program history by winning the 200 individual medley (2:04.62) and the 100 breaststroke (1:02.77) for the third-straight year at the Class M State Championship, setting school and meet records in the process. She earned All-American honors by virtue of her time in the breaststroke.
“I just wanted to go into states swimming my best for my team. The state records were just a bonus for me,” says Angela, who also swam on two triumphant relays that set school records at states. “It’s amazing to me and it indicates all the hard work throughout the season paid off. The breaststroke is one of my favorites to swim, so I just went out and had fun. To swim an All-American time was really cool.”
Prior to the state meet, Angela claimed first place in the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke at the SCC Championship for the third year in a row, along with swimming on the Indians’ first-place 200 medley relay. In her junior year, Angela broke the SCC record for the 200 IM by winning the event with a time of 1:03.29 at the conference meet.
While Angela enjoyed winning events at big postseason meets, she feels most proud about helping North Haven capture the Class M title last fall. The Indians had finished in second place at states the previous two seasons, but rose to the top of the podium in 2019.
“It was amazing because, the last two years, we were runner-up. This year, we were more motivated and reminded each other of our goal every day in practice. Going in every day, working hard, keeping that in mind, and then achieving it was amazing,” Angela says. “Weeks before, Martha was planning everything. At the prelims, we were in a good position, so when the state finals came, we were fired up. It was just an amazing moment for the team.”
In addition to being an excellent swimmer, Angela was also a selfless leader for North Haven. Angela loved leading the Indians as a senior captain, and Coach Phelan says that she did a great job in that role.
“The wonderful thing about Angela is there is no ego with Angela. She’s very humble, even with all her talent. She takes the critiquing I give and integrates it into her training and her racing,” says Phelan. “Angela got along with everybody on the team and was a fantastic leader. The way she interacts with her peers, it’s such a joy to see how she conducts herself.”
Angela led North Haven alongside fellow senior captain Christina Stoeffler last fall. After learning so much from the captains who preceded her, Angela had a lot to live up to when it was her turn to sit in the captain’s chair.
“Every year we had amazing captains, so I really felt my co-captain Christina and I had big shoes to fill. We went in with our goals and to get the whole team on the same track. Everyone was on board, and we kind of just led our team to a good year,” Angela says. “We all worked hard. Martha was an amazing coach to have, and I really think I’ve grown into the leader I wanted to be.”
Now that her high school career is complete, Angela is ready for her next venture in the water. Later this year, Angela will head off to Storrs to compete at the Division I level with the women’s swimming and diving squad at UConn.
“I have a couple of friends that swim at UConn, and they said for me to come look at it, because it’s a great school and a great program. I ended up loving it, and I think I’ll do amazing there,” says Angela. “I’m very excited. I really like swimming. It keeps me on schedule, so I think that’s going to be a good thing to have at the college level, too. I’m excited to go in with new teammates and a new team. Hopefully, I’ll get better.”