By Kalina Natcheva, contributing writer

The Nantucket Swimming and Diving team has returned for their first truly competitive season since COVID-19 directives were administered, now finally being able to compete against other schools. Last season, (December 2020- February 2021) the Swimming and Diving team was forced to virtually compete against other schools, as the swimmers and divers raced and dove strictly in their own pool on the island and solely competed against other teams’ race times and diving scores. Competitors wore masks until they were about to dive into the water, a practice that has been continued this year. The meets were broadcast to the public on a live stream, as no spectators were permitted to attend, making it difficult for athletes to experience encouragement from their friends and family members.

This year, however, the team began their season with domination, as they thrived in their natural competitive environment and achieved the highest amount of points-both the Girls and Boys teams- beating out Sandwich and Barnstable. As of January 3rd, the team sat at a record of 2-0 as they prepared to host their annual “Cape Cod Classic ” meet against multiple other schools on Saturday, January 8th, 2022. The coaching staff of the Nantucket Swimming and Diving team consists of Varsity Head Coach Jim Pignato, Assistant Coach Natalie Thompson, Assistant Coach Olivia Gallugi, and Diving Coach Drew Arent. Alongside the coaches, this year’s senior captains are Emily Dussault, Kevin Johnson, and Sarah Hanlon-all of whom have earned the leadership role and will be guiding their teammates through glories and difficulties. 

On Thursday, December 16th, 2021, the Boys and Girls teams experienced their first competitive meet against another team (the Sandwich Knights) in two years, as swimmers were able to race in lanes next to each other and divers were able to compete against other competitors. As the team lost some of last year’s key athletes, the Nantucket swimmers and divers had to step up to the challenge and use their determination to excel as a team even though the sports are traditionally individual. The Whalers’ passion for success was reflected in the final score, as the Girl’s team won 90-75 and the Boys Team trailed 94-44. The team’s momentum continued as they faced Barnstable on Friday, December 23, 2021, as the Girls’ team finished 138-35 and the Boys’ team won 85-40. In order to maintain their stamina for upcoming meets, Senior Captain Kevin Johnson stated, “I think it is important that the team is able to stay focused in practice and make sure we keep the end of season meets in mind at practice.” Johnson, Dussault, and Hanlon have been focused on keeping their team motivated, hoping for successful races in the future, in addition to some qualifying times for elite postseason meets.

Senior Captain Sarah Hanlon also praised the team’s work ethic, as she shared her noble intentions as a leader: “I try to help the team get excited to swim, and I think we have done a good job creating a positive atmosphere that allows us all to do our best. Everyone is working extremely hard to improve their skills and we have already had a few members of our team make postseason time cuts.” An inspirational environment is critical to the success of the team, as they will all have to work collectively with grit and perseverance if they want to continue their undefeated record. 

Although the Swimming and Diving Team is now able to travel and compete against other teams, a recent spike in COVID cases has imposed some new challenges on the athletes, as they are trying to maneuver through the virus. Junior diver Hunter Gross commented on the situation, as he said: “We are all taking precaution by wearing masks on and off the pool deck to reduce chances of contracting COVID.” As Gross is both a swimmer and a diver, he also shared the immense support from each athlete on the pool deck: “As a part of the Swim Team and the Dive Team, it is so cool to see the two different sports collaborate and work together to achieve some amazing results. Both teams are very supportive of each other and it is evident through the overwhelming support from those watching on the sidelines.” Even though they compete in two different sports, both the swimmers and divers have come together as a unit to cheer each other on, which overall inspires each athlete to compete to the maximum of their abilities. 

As the Swim and Dive team will lose a significant number of seniors after the 2021-2022 season, it is crucial that the younger swimmers and divers continue to use their driving power to remain dominant and united. Senior Emma Davis noted that “there’s a lot of talent in the younger swimmers already on the team, and future Whalers to come.” Davis also mentioned the honorable morals for the team, as she stated: “I think it is important that the seniors leave behind a good example of both sportsmanship and good work ethic. I am excited to follow the team and their success to come.” Ultimately, mentality, drive, and work ethic will determine the future of the Whalers Swimming and Diving team, as all three aspects play an essential role in the team’s victories. 

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