Lake Forest prevailed in the only meet between the two main Lake Hopatcong-based swim teams, but Shore Hills coach Brian Hehir said he still felt optimistic coming out of Wednesday’s competition, the first of ten swim meets for both teams.
“I think it’s the best we’ve ever swam against Lake Forest,” Hehir said. “They’re a powerhouse, and I’m extremely proud of our swimmers. I already see improvement from last year.”
The evening meet brought the 88 young swimmers from Lake Forest Yacht Club at the north end of the lake to Shore Hills Country Club at the southern end. The Shore Hills team has 56 swimmers, ages 6 to 18. Hehir is in his second year coaching the squad, but this is the first year he is focusing solely on his coaching duties—last year, he was still competing himself. “It’s nice to be able to focus on coaching,” he said. “Though I definitely miss swimming—it was a nice stress reliever.”
Twelve-year-old Tom Dowd of Lake Forest came in second in one of his races, where he competed in the butterfly stroke. He said he was particularly excited to do well in that race because he’s gotten better at the butterfly during the last three years he’s spent on the team. “At first I really didn’t like it,” he said. “But I’m getting better, and I’m happy with my finish today.”
Hannah Bhend, 11, of Shore Hills, has also been swimming for three years and said she was happy to get back into the competitive swing on Wednesday night. But as much as she loves swimming, she said, the best part of being on the team is spending time with friends. “And pushing the coaches in when we win,” she said.
On Wednesday, it was the Lake Forest kids who got to do the pushing in. After 54 heats over two hours, coaches Chris Murarik and Ed Zappile were escorted down the dock and into the lake by their swimmers.
“I’m really excited for the team,” Murarik said afterward. “It’s a 1-0 start, which is great.” Asked how he felt the team stacked up against those he’s coached in the past, he said he thought all of the age groups were more solid. “We had some weak spots, but I think, based on today, we’ve filled them up.”
Lake Forest’s next meet is at Denville, and Shore Hills will next compete at Randolph Park. Both meets are at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.