Five Atlantic City girls senior swimmers hoping for repeat of freshman-year success
Atlantic City High School senior Ayana Cox and four of her senior teammates often revisit the memorable season they were a part of as freshmen.
In the 2009-2010 season, the Vikings won their first Cape-Atlantic League American Conference and South Jersey Public A titles.
That team was led by Cox, Melissa Toy, Dominique Voso, Elvia Alvarez and Colleen Callahan - who has since been named The Press of Atlantic City Swimmer of the Year three times.
The five are hoping they win titles again as seniors.
"That's what we've been aiming for," Cox, a 16-year old Atlantic City resident, said by phone Tuesday. "We're always talking about it. Freshman year we did, and we want to go out with a (bang)."
"It would be a great way to top off our senior year," Callahan, a 17-year old Ventnor resident, added in a phone interview Wednesday. "I've been with Melissa, Dominique, Ayana and Elvia since freshman year, and I just see how hard everyone works. It would be awesome to be able to come out on top again."
Diving will no longer be held at dual meets; diving will be held at separate events. The Vikings have divers but have lost points in the past to schools such as Mainland Regional and Egg Harbor Township, which have the CAL's top diving programs.
"I feel that a lot of other teams lost good swimmers, and so did we. But I feel like the playing field is level this season," Cox said. "I think it will be very interesting this year. It's going to be very competitive and I think that we will do well."
Coach Bill Howarth also sees his team's potential.
"As everyone knows we have a lot of great front-line swimmers, but you can't win it with four or five girls. You need 12 or 15 to win," Howarth said by phone Monday. "So that's what we're working on here, to see if we can get enough depth around (the seniors). There's a lot of competition out there. No one is going to lie down for you. You always have to earn it in this league. It's a great league."
Experienced freshmen Amber Glenn, Carley Sless and Roman Barber will add to the Vikings' depth at Atlantic City's first meet of the season against Holy Spirit on Tuesday. They also will be called upon in meets with conference contenders Vineland on Dec. 13, EHT on Dec. 20 and Mainland on Jan. 15.
Juniors Rachel Kessler and Carly Egrie will swim breaststroke. Howarth said Kessler is good enough to swim in the middle lane to free up Callahan, the three-time 100 breaststroke state champion, to compete in other events. Allison Naoum and Andrea Gudino will complement Cox and Toy in the freestyle events, while sophomore Katie Lund will contribute in backstroke.
Howarth said having Alvarez also will be an asset.
"She's kind of like my trump card. I can put her anywhere I want, but her main strokes are the individual medley, butterfly and backstroke," Howarth said. "It's nice having someone on the team that you can move around depending on your competition."
The seniors may not have won a conference or sectional title in the last two years, but they've continued to excel individually.
Cox, Callahan, Voso and Toy brought the first state relay title to the school last year when they won the 200 medley relay at the Meet of Champions in a school-record 1 minute, 48.66 seconds.
Toy finished 10th in the 100 freestyle in a school-record 53.03 at the MOC, while Callahan picked up her third straight 200 individual medley title in a state-record 2:01.54.
The seniors hope the winning tradition at Atlantic City continues when they are gone.
"It's definitely weird being the top dogs, as rank of grades, because I'm still young. I'm still the age of some sophomores and juniors," Cox said. "Personally, a goal for me as a captain is to make sure that everybody is having fun and working hard and I hope that we lead by example.
"Looking back as a freshman, it just went by really fast. And I hope that we inspire (the younger girls) to keep swimming for the rest of their years and to keep up the good work for the program."
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