After years of minimal participation, the fledgling East Hampton boys swim team is charging ahead and finally has the numbers to compete with other schools.
Unfortunately, that won’t happen until next season.
Geographically, swimming in East Hampton is only logical, according to Coach Tom Cohill, but he said the last three or four seasons attracted as few as two boys to the team. This year, Cohill has a solid roster of 13 swimmers, but the sudden jump in numbers so far exceeded his expectations that his swimmers are competing in independent meets, rather than against other school teams as their numbers should allow.
“I didn’t foresee it to be this many,” Cohill said of his roster, which had to reach eight swimmers to compete at the varsity level. “We’re going to have a full team next year,” the coach said, noting that he’s excited to be part of a program that’s growing. The girls varsity team, which he also coaches, is in regular competition this year and hosts meets at the East Hampton YMCA.
Cohill is the aquatic director at the YMCA, where the boys practice for events in the independent meets, but do not host other swimmers. He said they compete in independent meets for best times, rather than in head-to-head races.
“There’s no keeping score in this,” and “no real team” to swim against, he said, noting that the team last swam in Connetquot on Friday.
Despite the limitations to the competitive aspects of the sport, Cohill said the season has been going well for his team. He said he was pleased with his team members’ motivation and said it’s great to finally be working with a large group of kids. “I’m really happy with the enthusiasm they’re showing,” Cohill noted, explaining that going from two swimmers to a full team in one year is “pretty freaking amazing.”
The coach said the jump in numbers, which includes one Ross and one Pierson student, may be because East Hampton is close to the ocean and swimming is second nature for many kids, though he acknowledged that it could also be because there’s little else for students to do in the winter season. “It just makes sense to have a swim team here,” Cohill said.
The 32-year-old coach said he’s been swimming since age 14 and coaching the sport since he was just 16 years old. “I’ve been doing this a while now,” Cohill said, explaining that his job as Y’s aquatic director entails making the pool schedule and keeping all the swimmers motivated and in line.
When Cohill moved to East Hampton five years ago, he said the facility’s directors asked him to coach the YMCA club team and the boys and girls swim teams were “a natural progression” from there.
At practice last Thursday, the evening before the Connetquot meet, the boys on the team fooled around and had some laughs at poolside, but, joking aside, all of them clearly showed that they’re serious about their sport.
“It’s been about four weeks” since the season started, Adrian Krasniqi, a sophomore at East Hampton said. Krasniqi noted that despite the team being independent, rather than an official varsity program, people come out to watch the meets and support them. Krasniqi said this was the first year he was aware that the school had a boys team.
Sophomore Cian Costello said his team swims in meets with other schools that don’t have the numbers required to race at the varsity level. He said the schools include Islip, Connetquot and Sachem, among others. The boys compete in freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and the highly challenging butterfly stroke.
“Most of us swim freestyle,” freshman James Budd said, noting earlier that he was interested in the sport before joining the East Hampton boys team and had previously swum for Cohill on the Y’s club team, the Hurricanes.
Coach Cohill and the majority of the boys named sophomore Matt Kalbacher as the standout on the team, and the only student who can compete in the butterfly stroke. “He’s like the best,” Krasniqi said of Kalbacher.
“We’ve been doing pretty well,” Kalbacher said, modest, but apparently comfortable being named as the team’s top swimmer.
The majority of the boys swim team are underclassmen, which is good news for their transition into varsity competition next year, Cohill said, noting that most of the boys will return as better swimmers. The team has two meets a week for the next three weeks and will finish out the season in early February.