Despite Challenges, Pirates Dominate Early On

Briefly discussing the Pirates’ successes and shortcoming in recent years while focusing on key areas that affect their chances at another championship run.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sophomore Kai Yamamoto stepped up to his lane. He sprung off the starting block, already ahead of his competitors. It was a routine two laps for Yamamoto, who finished four seconds ahead of his teammate, freshman Karl Chen, and almost 10 seconds ahead of the fourth place competitor from James Monroe Campus. Yamamoto’s success in the 100-yard butterfly was one of many from Stuyvesant’s boys’ varsity swimming & diving team, the Pirates, who extended a lengthy streak of regular season victories with a decisive 52-38 win over Campus on January 10.

These kinds of victories are nothing new for the Pirates, who have commanded the Bronx/Manhattan League for years now, with the last three seasons providing a combined regular season record of 23-0. Their divisional dominance also spills into their playoff performances: a championship run coming last year and losses in the championship rounds the two years before that. Both of these losses were to the Brooklyn Technical High School Engineers, which has resulted in a developing rivalry between the two teams. Many of the swimmers who were on the team two or three years ago are eager to once again compete with their rivals. “I remember losing to Brooklyn Tech my freshman year and how hard it was for the seniors to lose four times in a row. After that the whole team, even the rookies, [has] been extremely motivated. And while we still have this rivalry with Brooklyn Tech, we are confident we can [and] will win the championship this year,” junior Axel Tolpina said. This motivation has clearly paid off, as demonstrated by last year’s championship.

The Pirates hope to defend their title this year, but they have to compensate for the missing talent of last year’s seniors. This year, there are only five seniors and 13 underclassmen. Nonetheless, the team has faith in many of its underclassmen. Freshman Osmond Wan and Yamamoto have been very consistent this season, placing first or second in almost every event they’ve swam in, including the 100-yard freestyle and the 200-yard individual medley. “All of our new recruits this year have an overall great work ethic, which shows in their performance during practices and at meets. Yamamoto continues to put out fast times and win his events in our dual meets,” senior and co-captain Derek Tran said.

The upperclassmen core has also remained very solid, with co-captain seniors Derek Tran and Leon Lai as well as junior Nicholas Wen placing first in almost every event they’ve swam in this season, from the 200-yard individual medley to the 100-yard butterfly.

Another obstacle has been a coaching change. Coach Silvana Choy took over the role of former girls and boys swimming coach Peter Bologna, as a result of his new position as Stuyvesant’s Athletic Director. This was a very sudden and unexpected adjustment for the Pirates, who have seen deep playoff runs year after year thanks to former coach Bologna. “The biggest change [has been] our new head coach, Coach Choy. She took the position without prior knowledge about our swimmers, and we also did not know what to expect heading into this season. Throughout the first few weeks, we had to earn each other's trust and respect. She definitely runs things differently than former Coach Bologna, but they are both equally committed to this team. Even during this transition, we've still been able to remain a tight-knit community, and we fully trust Coach Choy,” Tran said.

A coaching transition is always something that can be a major factor in a team’s success, but the Pirates have stayed true to their dominance over the Bronx/Manhattan League under Coach Choy. So far, the Pirates have once again maintained an undefeated regular season record of 6-0 and look to clinch back-to-back championships by relying on their strong upperclassmen core and rapidly developing underclassmen roster.