Penguins City Champs Again

The Penguins surpassed lofty expectations and held onto the title of City Champions after a triumphant season.

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Following a regular season that saw them go undefeated in the Bronx/Manhattan A Division, the Stuyvesant Penguins, the girls’ varsity swimming team, emerged from their playoff season holding onto their title of City Champions. After the dominant six-year stretch of six consecutive championships, followed by a three-year drought, the Penguins finally reclaimed their title last season. This year’s victory against Brooklyn Technical High School on November 7 began a new championship streak.

Senior and co-captain Maia Brydon indicated that the team was initially concerned going into their playoff season. The team was missing several important swimmers going into their first meet. “I think the biggest challenge we faced was probably getting through quarter-finals because we had quite a few fast swimmers that were indisposed and couldn't come to the meet, so we all had to come together and work really hard to beat Tottenville High School,” Brydon said. Missing two of their fastest swimmers, the meet started off competitive, and the first half ended with an almost tied score.

Senior and co-captain Lauren Ng noted that the intermission was critical for the team rallying in the second half. “We held a team meeting right before the second half of the meet and got the whole team to understand that we all had to swim our best times in order to win quarters. The fear of our season ending at quarter-finals was enough to make us act as a team,” Ng said. The team’s collective efforts prevailed, and the Penguins defeated the Tottenville Pirates 59-41.

The Penguins progressed through their semi-final meet against Benjamin H. Cardozo High School and prepared to once again battle for the title of City Champions. “The team prepared for finals the way we always do—tapering in the few days before finals,” Brydon said. Tapering refers to practices that are shorter and more focused on technique. Tapering is uncommon throughout the season because of the fear that the shorter practices will lead to the swimmers being out of shape, but it is used at the end of the year because it can optimize short-term progress. “As for mental preparation, I think the team dynamic allows us not to do that much mental preparation,” she said. “We're very dedicated to the team and to each other, and we went into playoffs wanting to win.”

The team’s coach, Silvana Choy, echoed Brydon’s statement. “The team worked all season with the common goal of getting back to the finals,” Choy said. “Ultimately, the most important thing to me and the team is giving 100 percent and having pride and integrity in everything we do. The girls know that if we all give 100 percent effort in everything we do, then we can be proud no matter what the outcome.”

The season-long preparation seemed to pay off when it came to the Championship meet. The Penguins quickly jumped out to an early lead. “I felt that we set the tone early,” Choy said. “The meet started off with two strong medley relays. Freshman Claire MacDonald and sophomore Inga Edwards started off the relays, both swimming personal best times for the 50-meter back[stroke],” she said.

The Penguins continued to dominate across events, and it became clear who the city champions were going to be. “I think [for] a couple races before the end, we knew we were going to win,” Brydon said. The meet ended with the Penguins winning [with] 63 [points] to Tech’s 39.

Besides the Penguins newly claimed team championship title, the meet also resulted in several broken records. All three school records were broken for the team relays (the 200-meter medley relay, the 200-meter freestyle relay, and the 400-meter free relay). The 400-meter free relay team, made up of junior Arielle Aney, junior Natasha Moeslinger, freshman Mayumi Schaepers-Cheu, and junior Emma Lee, broke the meet record at Opens Championships. Seven members of the team also qualified for the New York State Championships, which were held in Ithaca on November 16-17. Juniors Lee, Aney, and Moeslinger, sophomore diver Stella Oh, and freshmen Joline Fong, Shaepers-Cheu, and Eliza Snapp all competed at the state championships.

With all the success the Penguins have had in the pool, there was one moment outside the pool that really stood out for coach Choy. After her record-setting performance at the A Division Championships, Shaepers-Cheu was awarded the April Lao Memorial Award for outstanding rookie. This PSAL Championship award is granted to the most valuable freshman swimmer. The award was particularly sentimental for Coach Choy. “April was an incredible swimmer and person,” Choy said of the late swimmer. “I had the privilege of being April's coach in her freshman year, and it was very special and emotional for me to watch April's family present Mayumi with this honor,” she said.

Entering the season with lofty expectations, the Stuyvesant Penguins certainly didn’t disappoint. Even though they had to help their young swimmers adapt to the team-oriented nature of high school swimming and battle missing key swimmers in crucial moments of the season, the Penguins never faltered in their hunt for a repeat championship. After breaking multiple records and having a perfect season, the Penguins had a picture perfect ending to their season.