Martha’s Vineyard swimmers debut in first home varsity meet

Katherine Donegan got the Vineyarders off to a good start in the backstroke leg of the 200-yard medley relay. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

A new era in Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School sports began Wednesday afternoon at the YMCA pool when the Vineyard coed swimming team competed as a varsity program for the first time, after two years as a club team.

The Vineyarders, who have adopted the unofficial nickname “The Splash,” hoped to make a big one in the opener against Pope John Paul II High School of Hyannis. Both teams will compete in the Bay Colony League (BCL) alongside Barnstable, Bridgewater-Raynham, Coyle Cassidy (Taunton), Nantucket, Nauset (North Eastham), Sacred Heart (Kingston), and Sandwich.

Coach Robin Tuck has a fast, versatile team of 20 swimmers, including captains Mariah and Jessica Campbell, both juniors; seniors Paige Nitardy, Alex Mazza, Bella Bennett, and Katherine Donegan; sophomores Liam Cosgrove, Raz Sayre, and Galya Walt; and freshmen Kate Hansen and Tucker Cosgrove.

MVRHS got a taste of life in the BCL last Sunday in Sandwich at the Bay Colony Relay, a team event where the Vineyarders raced against many of the swimmers who will compete against them in league meets during the season.

The Splash came in seventh out of the eight teams, besting only Pope John Paul II. But coach Tuck was pleased with what she saw.

“I was overwhelmed with by how well they did, their attitudes and everything; they were really, really good,” coach Tuck said during practice on Monday. “I knew they were capable of it, but they were swimming really fast. They looked good. Our beginning swimmers looked stronger and had way better stroke technique than the beginning swimmers I saw on the other teams. I think we’re working with a good crew with a lot of talented people.” Coach Tuck attributes some of the rapid improvement to the team watching videos of Olympic swimmers demonstrating stroke technique.

The highlight of Sunday’s relay event was the Vineyarders winning a heat in the 400-meter freestyle with what the coach referred to as an “outside burn,” or from lane one on the outside. Generally, the faster swimmers start in the middle lanes. “If you do an outside burn, people say, ‘where did they come from,'” Coach Tuck said.

As for the season opener on Wednesday, each Vineyard swimmer was assured of making a little history. The race times posted against PJP II will assuredly be broken, maybe by the next meet, but they will always be the first ones recorded.

First into the record books for the Vineyarders was the winning 200-yard medley relay team of Katherine Donegan, Mariah Campbell, Galya Walt, and Taylor Brasefield, who finished with time of 2:30.42. The first Vineyarder to finish in an individual event was Jessica Campbell, who placed third in the 200-yard freestyle in 2:52.67. As of presstime, after three events, Martha’s Vineyard led the Lions, 2-1.