YOUNG NASSAU: A group of some of the young stars for the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings are all smiles after competing at the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) Mini-Meet earlier this summer at the Community Park Pool. Pictured, from left, are Uma Jain, Isabel Colón, Evelyn Colón, Elizabeth Colón, Liliana Brenner-Witten, Tatiana Yanovsky, Daniel Yanovsky, and Vladimir Yanovsky. That crew played a key role as the Lemmings went 5-1 in Division 2 dual meet action and placed second in Division 2 in the PASDA championship meet at CP in late July. (Photo provided by Rachel Adlai-Gail)
By Bill Alden
While the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings team only had a crew of 40 this summer, it accomplished a lot.
The squad went 5-1 in Division 2 dual meet action in the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) and then went on to place second in Division 2 in the PASDA championship meet in late July.
“It was a really great season for us, the kids really got a confidence boost,” said Nassau co-head coach Rachel Adlai-Gail. “Last year was a little bit hard on them. We still had fun but we did lose all of our meets. It was nice to see us winning something. One of the main things I noticed this summer is how much our kids have improved.”
The Lemmings battled hard at the PASDA championship meet held at the Community Park Pool, piling up 1,319 points to take second in Division 2 with Penn Brook scoring 1,352.50 to win the title.
“I think they definitely get energy from competing,” said Adlai-Gail, a longtime Lemming who is entering her senior season at Bryn Mawr and competes for its swim team. “We have a pretty competitive team, kids who like to win. I think this is an awesome setting for them to thrive. They definitely liked it, they were like, ‘We are competing against all of the teams.’ We said, ‘Yes, every team, but you have got this.’ They competed hard, they enjoyed it.”
Adlai-Gail pointed to a pair of 12-and-under boys, Gabriel Colon and Alex Ahlo, as rising to the occasion at the championship meet. Colon placed second in the 50 freestyle and third in both the 50 backstroke and 50 breaststroke while Ahlo took second in the 50 breast.
“Gabriel and Alex both came in not knowing all of the strokes, swimming was pretty new to them,” said Adlai-Gail. “When they left, both were competitive and placing well at champs.”
For Adlai-Gail, serving as a head coach made for a memorable summer.
“I found my love for swimming through Nassau, I remember getting that special feeling of community,” said Adlai-Gail, who had previous served as an assistant coach for the program. “I always remember the older coaches being so nice to me. I would spend all day at the pool, it was definitely a highlight of my childhood. I wanted to continue that feeling for the younger generation of swimmers so that is what I have been doing in coaching.”
Nassau co-head coach David Cooper, a former swimmer at Rider University who was in his first season with the Lemmings, relished seeing the progress from his swimmers across the board.
“This summer we had a lot of kids who only swim during the summer,” said Cooper, who also coaches for the X-Cel club program. “They came in and as you go through the summer, you see people getting faster, learning new skills. As they become more comfortable with each other, they become more competitive. It has been amazing to see; it is one thing that a lot of teams just don’t have and they took it and ran with it. The reason I loved coaching them this year is the amount of spirit and camaraderie that I see in the team. It is just a big family; that is one of my core values that I really emphasize and that any sports team should have. I think Nassau models it really well.”
The Yanovsky family helped bolster the Nassau boys’ squad as Vladimir Yanovsky was the 6-and-under boys’ MVP at the PASDA championship meet while Daniel Yanovsky starred in the 10-and-under boys division and Vasily Yanovsky was the 14-and-under boys’ PASDA MVP.
Vladimir placed first in the boys 6U 25-yard backstroke and in the 25 free and second in the 8U 25 breast while Daniel took first in the boys 10U 25 free, 25 butterfly, and 100 individual medley and Vasily placed first in the boys 14 U 50 breast, 50 free, and 100 IM.
“Vladimir had an interest in swimming that really stood out,” said Cooper. “During our swim-a-thon which we have every year to raise money he swam for about an hour straight. You would expect maybe like 30 laps from a six-and-under, but Vladimir just takes off and swims more than a mile. Daniel would always come to practice, saying can we work on this can we do a hard kick drill. He was always asking for something hard or challenging.”
Adlai-Gail, for her part, was impressed with Vasily’s competitive spirit.
“In our meet at Bedens Brook, Vasily came up to me and said, ‘I know it won’t count, but can I also race in breaststroke unofficially? I just want to race against Daniel Baytin,’” recalled Adlai-Gail. “I said, “Oh yeah. of course, you can take this end lane, it is open.’ He swam and did awesome. He just loves swimming and he loves competing, you can tell. He wanted to do an extra race and that says a lot.”
The Baytin brothers were another key family for the Lemmings. Stephen Baytin placed first in the boys 12U 50 breaststroke, 50 free and the 100 IM. Older brother Daniel, a Princeton High star, finished first in the 18U 50 breast and 100 IM and took second in the 50 free.
“The Baytins both compete for X-Cel as well,” said Cooper. “They are very cooperative. They are always saying, ‘Can I help you here?’ It is a personality trait of the Baytins. They are for the team.”
Sawyer Kinney was also a big help for the 14U boys, taking first in the 50 back and 50 fly.
“Sawyer is definitely a longtime, loyal Lemming,” said Adlai-Gail. “He is always at practice, he has been doing it for a long time. He is one of our older guys, he sets an example for our younger kids. He brings a nice energy to our team.”
As for the Nassau girls, the Yanovsky sisters brought a lot of energy. Tatiana Yanovsky took second in the girls 8-and-under 25 breast, 25 free and 100 IM while Julianna placed second in the girls 12U 50 breast and third in the 100 IM.
“What both girls had in common was the way socially and physically, they kind of carry the team,” said Cooper. “Towards the end of practice when you start wearing down and everybody is getting tired, they would be super social and talk to people. They would say keep on going and we are going to have a fun time doing it.”
Adlai-Gail liked the drive she saw from Tatiana. “Tatiana is only eight and she practices with our older group and totally kept up with the 14-and-unders,” said Adlai-Girl. “She is very motivated and always wants to be with the older kids, that was something really cool to see.”
Uma Jain showed her motivation, placing first in the girls 10U back and third in the 25 free.
“Uma fits in there with Juliana and Tatiana, she is hardworking,” said Cooper. “I love how coachable her and older sister Anoushka were, they were always very receptive to critiques during practice to make themselves better.”
Juliet Wei and Allison Yu emerged as two of the better swimmers in the 14-and-under girls. Wei took first in the 50 breast, second in both the 50 fly and in the 100 IM while Yu placed first in the 50 breast, 50 fly, and 100 IM.
“Juliet has been a Lemming for as long as I can remember,” said Adlai-Gail, noting that Wei’s older sister, Kim, was a stalwart for the 18U girls this summer.
“She is always a great asset to our team. She is pretty quiet. She definitely knows how to get out there and compete. She and her sister Kim live in New York but they come every summer and swim for Nassau and we love having them.”
Newcomer Yu made quite a debut for the Lemmings. “She is definitely one of those competitive ones,” said Adlai-Gail, noting that Yu is her neighbor and she recruited her to join the squad.
“She was great. She was new to the team and was out there making friends. I asked her how she liked it at the end of the season and she said she had a lot of fun. It was nice to bring in a new person.”
For Adlai-Gail, introducing newcomers to the Lemmings tradition was a lot of fun.
“There is a definitely magic aspect to Nassau; I love it, I call it like a little wooded oasis,” said Adlai-Gail. “One of the highlights of this summer for me was to see new families and faces experiencing that magic of Nassau. The new families that came here were saying why don’t more people know about this, Nassau is such a great place. Seeing that and having parents tell me at the end of the season that feel like their child found their sport was cool. Nassau is that place where you can fall in love with swimming.”
Cooper felt that magic in his debut season with the Lemmings.
“I am already planning on coming back next year; the team left a really good lasting impression on me with just the way the dynamic is,” said Cooper. “Not a lot of year-round teams have the dynamic that Nassau does, which is so important. It allows the kids to have a good balance of working hard but also having fun, building lifelong friendships. The bigger picture is what families should focus on, not just competing but having some fun in what you are doing. That is the part that really stood out.”