The East Hampton-Pierson-Bridgehampton girls swim team’s traditional “Senior Swim” ceremony can be emotional for those taking their final laps in the East Hampton YMCA pool — before receiving flowers and accolades from teammates and family members. It would be understandable if those emotions poured into the ensuing meet and led to a loss, but that’s not what happened on Friday.
In fact, it was quite the opposite.
East Hampton defeated Harborfields, 91-77, and, coupled with its 53-43 victory at Lindenhurst on April 6, the team finished the regular season in sole possession of second place with a 4-1 record, behind undefeated Sayville. It was the senior captains — Pierson’s Catalina Badilla and Kiara Bailey-Williams and East Hampton’s Caroline Brown, Stephanie Pallchisaca and Nicole Gutierrez — who were honored prior to Friday’s meet and who were key in the team’s victory over Harborfields.
Bailey-Williams finished the 200-yard individual medley in a season’s best 2:25.42 to place second. Badilla won the 100-yard butterfly (1:05.57), with Bailey-Williams finishing second in a season’s best 1:08.99, and Gutierrez placing fourth (1:17.85). Pallchisaca competed in all three relays for Bonac, anchoring the 400-yard freestyle relay.
The underclassmen did their part as well. East Hampton sophomore Summer Jones won the 200-free (2:01.36) and 500-free (5:28.75) races and East Hampton sophomore Jane Brierley won the 50-free (26.35 seconds) and 100-yard breaststroke (1:09.97). Springs eighth-grader Ava Castillo was named Swimmer of the Meet by the team’s captains
Overall, the Bonackers won eight of the 11 events they competed in.
“It was a special, bittersweet moment, and with the amazing help of their teammates, it was very memorable,” East Hampton head coach Craig Brierley said. “We wish our seniors the best of luck in the next chapter of their lives and we are blessed with all the memories that they have given to our program over the years.”
The swimmers weren’t sure what this season would entail, with a truncated schedule happening in March and April instead of September and October, and all of the restrictions that were required just to get a season in. But the senior captains said, despite everything, this may have been their most memorable season yet.
“Honestly, at first, having a shorter season seemed like a challenge, especially since we didn’t have as much time in the pool as we would have liked,” said Brown, who will be swimming at Skidmore College next fall. “Shortened practice times, less meets, it all was hard to get used to.
“Our team handed it like champs, though,” she added. “We worked super hard given the time we had and it prevailed in both the pool and in our spirits. We are so grateful we were able to have a season, even if it was shortened.”
Badilla called it her “favorite season, by far.”
“I am so lucky to swim amongst such smart, kind and hardworking girls,” she said. “Everyone does their best to be at practice on time and get ready to swim. Usually after every swim meet and practice, we huddle up to recap and conclude the session, and every time I make it a point to congratulate and genuinely thank the girls for being who they are. Not once as a captain have I ever had to ask them to get off their phones, or to listen up, or to cheer on the girls at swim meets, they just naturally do it.
“Swimming is such a competitive sport that at times it can become so overwhelming, but the environment all the girls have created is one of welcome, hard work, acceptance and fun,” Badilla added. “There is truly never a dull moment with these girls, in and out of the pool. I know I can speak on behalf of the other captains and both Coach Craig and Coach Thomas when I say we have an amazing team.”
Badilla, a native of Costa Rica, is a Southampton Town ocean lifeguard and will be attending the University of Costa Rica in the fall for one semester before heading to the University of Miami for the next four years, where she’ll be majoring in journalism.
“I’m so proud to see where this team has come from and where it is now,” she said. “The first week of the season, many girls were still shy and getting to know each other, and now everyone is so close. I always say, this isn’t a team we have, this is a bond and we are a family, because what we have goes farther than just the sport of swimming. We are each others’ role models, support groups and best friends. We know how to express ourselves while being respectful. We know how to work hard while having fun.
“Although many of us will be going off to college soon, this definitely isn’t goodbye,” Badilla continued. “I’m so proud and honored to have been a captain of this team, and I’m so excited to see the places they go and the things they do in the upcoming years.”
The postseason now begins, and due to COVID restrictions, this season’s League III Championships will be contested differently. Typically all of the teams in the league meet at a neutral site, usually Hauppauge, and go through the meet in one evening.
There will be three separate meets instead, this Friday, April 16. East Hampton will host Lindenhurst at 5 p.m., with two other meets to run concurrently in two separate locations, and the results from each meet will be combined to determine a league champion. All was subject to change, though, Coach Brierley said.
Many Bonackers have also qualified themselves for the county meet, which is slated to be at Stony Brook University April 24-25, at 10 a.m. each day.