Jeff Thompson, who coaches the East Hampton High School boys swimming team, was pleasantly surprised when on the first day of practice he saw that 30 hopefuls, twice last year’s number, were facing him.
The word had gotten around.
Five have since cut themselves, in effect, but the rest have stayed, and promise to be, in the aggregate, Thompson said during last Thursday’s practice at the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter, the best team he’s had.
East Hampton’s varsity program is in only its third year, but the pipeline has from day one been as good as any other high school sport given the popularity of East Hampton Town’s junior lifeguard program overseen by John Ryan Sr. and Jr., and the Hurricanes youth swim team coached by Tom Cohill, the Y’s aquatics director.
“About two-thirds of the kids are from East Hampton, about a third are from Pierson, all of them good, and we’ve got three from Bridgehampton,” Thompson said, a remark that prompted this writer to observe that, of the sports in which East Hampton is combined with other schools, boys swimming appears to be the biggest draw.
Of the some 10 new team members, “half of them have experience and the other half, while they don’t have the experience, do have the work ethic — it’s an amazing group.”
Thompson has lost to graduation several stalwarts in Matt Kalbacher, Tim Gualtieri, and Adrian Krasniqi, all of whom competed in last year’s county meet, but Trevor Mott and Thomas Brierley, who competed in the counties last year as freshmen, are among the returnees, as is Dan Hartner, a Pierson senior who would have been in the county meet had he not been ill at the time.
Brierley, Krasniqi, Kalbacher, and Mott placed eighth in the county’s 200-yard freestyle relay last winter, and Kalbacher, Brierley, Mott, and Gualtieri were 13th in the 400 freestyle relay.
“Those were the first top-10 finishes we’ve had at the sectionals,” Thompson said at the time.
“This year, the sky’s the limit,” said the coach, who is again assisted by Craig Brierley, Thomas’s father. Thompson said he was very grateful for Brierley’s help. “It’s like having two head coaches,” he said. “One wouldn’t be able to do it — it’s too big a group.”
Besides Mott, Brierley, and Hartner, then, the returnees include Jeremy Pepper and Peter Skerys, both Pierson seniors, and Adam Heller, a Pierson junior, as well as Christian Figueroa, a Bridgehampton junior, Baxter Parcher and Mike Knab, both Pierson sophomores, and Andrew Winthrop, an East Hampton junior.
Among the many new ones are Ryan Lewis, an East Hampton senior, and Sergio Betancur, an East Hampton junior, who, while it’s their first season of varsity swimming, are town lifeguards; Paul Dorego, a Pierson senior; Robert Anderson III, Zach Bogetti, Thomas Dayton, Christopher Kalbacher, Shane McCann, Tyler Menold, Rob Rewinski, and Claudio Figueroa, who are all freshmen; Anthony McGorisk and Kyle Sturmann, who are sophomores, and two eighth graders, Nick Pucci and Thomas Pardicio, both of East Hampton.
The team practices from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Y on weekdays, and from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. there on Saturdays.
“We’ve got a ton of talent,” said Thompson. “We’ll come out stronger than ever — we’ll have a completely full lineup with people to spare. We’ll run three teams in the relays whereas we only ran two before. We have a lot of guys who will be really competitive, who can do all the strokes.”
Thompson didn’t schedule any scrimmages because of the need to get so many practices in before things get under way. His goal, he said, is to take “all the relays and six individuals to the county meet. Last year, I took two relays and three individuals.”
“All but two of our meets will be at home” — good news inasmuch as in away meets against teams with divers, East Hampton couldn’t contest those points.
The first is to be here with Huntington on Friday, Dec. 16. The Bonackers are to swim at Lindenhurst, a nonleague opponent, on Jan. 5. Home meets with Harborfields (Jan. 10), North Babylon (Jan. 12), and Deer Park (Jan. 18) are to follow. East Hampton is to swim at Hauppauge on Jan. 20, and Smithtown East, a nonleague opponent, is to swim here in the last meet of the regular season on Feb. 1.
Asked how many football fields the squad had swum to date, Thompson checked with his iPhone and said, “Four hundred and fifty football fields so far. . . . We’re getting there.”