The Huntington High School girls’ swimming and diving team is looking ahead to the future after several of its senior stars reached the state championships this past fall.
Like many teams in Suffolk and across the state, Huntington has elected to combine its squad with Walt Whitman. The Blue Devils are coached by Christopher Helmke and Meg McConnell.
This year’s combined team included 10 Huntington student-athletes. Four of the Blue Devils will be graduating next June so Helmke is campaigning to draw more participants into the program.
“Our goals for next year are to continue to attract motivated swimmers and divers to our team and maintain a high level of dedication, sportsmanship and teamwork,” Helmke said. “Athletes will work to improve upon their individual best times and improve our standing in the league and county.”
This year’s team compiled an overall dual meet record of 4-4 and went on to finish fifth in Section XI. Seniors Patricia Arceri and Sigrid Cassell both advanced to the state championships, with Arceri capturing All-State honors in diving.
Five Huntington athletes garnered post-season honors, including Arceri, who was recognized as All-League, All-County and All-State and Cassell, who was named All-League and All-County. Francine Nastasi, Caelan Clayton and Kathryn Montefusco all swam to All-League honors. Arceri and Nastasi were the team’s co-captains.
“Trisha’s ability to overcome adversity and excel in competition makes her a true leader,” Helmke said. “She’s a dedicated individual with a great personality.”
Arceri set a new school 1-meter diving record and went on to place ninth in the state championships at Ithaca.
Cassell excelled in the 50 freestyle and in the 200 yard medley and 400 yard freestyle relays. “Sigrid is an amazing athlete with incredible speed,” Helmke said. “She’s a specialist in all four strokes who helped propel our team forward and added to our success.”
Nastasi sparkled as a freestyle specialist. “She’s a hardworking and positive influence and an all-around leader,” Helmke said. “Francine is a dedicated swimmer who excelled in each event and became a driving force behind the team’s success.”
Montesfusco, a talented seventh grader, was a standout on the relay teams and in breaststroke. “Kathryn is a newcomer to our team and is hardworking and an extremely fast freestyler and breaststroker with a great personality,” Helmke said.
Clayton turned in superb year as an eighth grader, impressing coaches in freestyle and butterfly. “Caelan is a hardworking, versatile and dedicated swimmer,” Helmke said. “She has a winning personality and is a great asset to our team.”
Arceri, Cassell, Nastasi and Gaia D’Anna will all graduate in June. Current junior Hannah Bailin, freshmen Claire Connor and Sasha Koulakova, eighth grader Gretel Cassell and Clayton and Montefusco are set to return next fall.
“Combining Huntington with Walt Whitman for girls’ swimming and diving has created a cohesiveness among the girls, which propelled us into league, county and state success,” Helmke said. “Our swimmers and our diver rose to the occasion at the league championships as two of our relays fought hard to achieve All-League status. Our best team accomplishment this season was finishing fifth out of 28 teams at the Suffolk championships. This was an incredible accomplishment since we carried a team of only 14 this season. Among this group, we sent three team members to the states and two of them achieved All-State honors, which was a great improvement over last year.”
Getting more people involved in the program and getting more girls interested in diving are two ongoing goals for Huntington’s coaches.
“We are continuing to rebuild and recruit new swimmers,” Helmke said. “We expect our remaining athletes to return as we continue to advance and improve upon our speed and team depth. I’m looking forward to next year.”