The Penguins Plunge Into Victory

Coming off a playoff loss last season, the Penguins, Stuyvesant’s girl’s swimming and diving team, are eager and determined to take the chip and win the PSAL championships this year.

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By Eliza Oppenheimer

Last year, the Penguins, Stuyvesant’s girls’ swimming and diving team, missed the mark in the playoffs, falling short to Francis Lewis High School in the semifinals 46-52. While the team’s best efforts were unable to bring them to finals, this loss provided them extra motivation to improve the next season after coming so close to winning it all.

Using that loss as fuel, the Penguins were eager and motivated to win the PSAL championships this year. This season, the team consisted of many new promising swimmers and seven divers, compared to previous years after COVID when there would only be one or two divers. Stuyvesant is fortunate enough to have a diving board where divers can get their flips in and practice, whereas other teams usually don’t even have divers. With hard work and practice, they kept their undefeated regular season streak alive and went 10-0 this season. Determined to make it back to finals, coach Alan Zhu worked hard to keep the team's pace up, training them until their last breaths. Starting practice the final few weeks of summer, the team practiced two hours a day with varying sets, ranging from distance to sprints, and commonly ending with all-out sprints to build endurance and reenact the last lap of races. With all this work, the Penguins won their season opener against Hunter College High School 57-43. Their work was far from over, though, as the Penguins continued to work hard to prepare for the rest of the season, going to the weight room twice a week and not tapering until the final two meets.

The physical aspect of swimming is important, but so is the mental part. Throughout the season, the team prioritized good spirit and camaraderie to keep their head in the game. Swimming is extremely demanding, and so is Stuyvesant’s workload, so it is usually difficult to maintain things like healthy sleep habits. The Penguins did their best to combat this by helping each other out as much as they could through pre-game rituals, such as blasting music right before their meets or slapping their arm and leg muscles to get themselves hyped up. A new pre-game practice the team developed was closing their eyes and envisioning their race. “Sometimes our captains will speak through each part of our race from the dive to the finish, and it helps me make fewer mistakes in my technique,” junior Josephine Yoo said.

Forming connections is very important to build team chemistry, and senior captains Ava Luan, Sedona Jelinek, and Megan Chan played an essential role in ensuring the team was stable and strong. The captains led the team by boosting morale or by helping the swimmers improve their form. “This year, the girls are motivated, focused, and benefit from excellent leadership provided by our captains: Ava, Sedona, and Megan,” Zhu said. 

Luan specifically worked on implementing new strategies to help the team prosper, like watching memorable videos and prioritizing the team’s health. “We have always gotten sick this time of year, so I’m making people take Vitamin C, honey packets, and a bee propolis spray, which is really great for sore throats,” Luan said.

The coaches also kept morale up, especially for some of the newer athletes. Diving coach Daniel Guerrero helped the divers stay collected under pressure. It is vital to relieve pressure when performing in order to get points, as diving can be very daunting with everyone watching. “I started out with no gymnastics or diving experience, so I was a little worried about being able to get all my dives before competitions started, but Coach G and the other divers are really supportive and overall it’s been really fun,” sophomore diver Stephanie Wijaya said.

In this year’s semifinals, the meet was against Francis Lewis again, but this time the Penguins got them back and beat them by 19 points, 60-41. Going into finals, the team was motivated to take the chip with all the effort they had put in. Their hard work all season paid off, as the Penguins beat Brooklyn Tech 64-37 to claim the City Championship. As the 2023-2024 season comes to an end, the Penguins look back on this season with pride, as their dedication to practices and the team has led them to a title no one can ever take away—City Champions.