SANDWICH – The Nauset Regional High School boys and girls swimming and diving teams were eager to see some new faces after enduring last year’s unprecedented virtual format, which saw Cape and Islands League teams compete in the comfort of their own pools and then compare times with opponents to establish scores and determine winners.
Saturday’s Cape and Islands League Relay Carnival had the feel of a reunion of long-lost cousins, as a collection of the league’s teams met at Sandwich High School to take part in the league’s annual early-season event for the first time since 2019.
“There wasn’t even cheering allowed last year, so this is electrifying,” said Jenn Stevens, who coaches both Nauset teams. “It’s energizing being inside this building right now with everybody for our first official meet in person. It’s fantastic to see the kids be able to get into the water.”
Although some of the league’s teams opted to not take part in the carnival — Barnstable, St. John Paul II and Bishop Connolly were in attendance in addition to Nauset and host Sandwich — excitement still filled the pool despite the fact spectators weren’t allowed to attend.
Competitors waited for their teammates at each end of the pool, while even more lined both sides to offer support the entire duration of each event.
"This is great,” said John Szucs, a Brewster resident and senior captain for Nauset’s boys team. “Especially after last year, we were kind of cooped up at our home pool racing against ourselves. It’s great to have competition from other teams. And since it’s our senior year, it’s great to have that comeback.”
As happy as the Warriors were to arrive at the carnival, they were even happier on their ride home to North Eastham after holding off a late push from Sandwich to win the team title with a combined score of 175.
Sandwich (141) was the runner-up ahead of Barnstable (76), JP II (33) and Bishop Connolly (19).
“It’s really good to start with a win,” said Brynn Morris, a Harwich resident and senior on the girls team. “I think it gives energy to the whole team knowing that we’re all doing really good and it’s still early in the season. It just gives all of us a lot of hope that we’re going to continue to do good.”
Morris and Szucs teamed up on a couple winning relay teams; they partnered with junior Kaitlin Bohannon and sophomore William Crowell to win the mixed 200-yard backstroke relay in 1 minute, 56.30 seconds, and then teamed up with Crowell and sophomore Nina Mako to win the mixed 500 freestyle relay in 5:02.05.
In all, Nauset finished with victories in eight of the carnival’s 12 events. Two of the relay teams also already punched their tickets to the postseason after posting qualifying times.
Morris, Bohannon, sophomores Nina Mako and Lila Keeney qualified for the South sectionals in the girls 200 medley relay with a first-place time of 2:04.06, more than a second faster than the 2:05.65 needed to qualify for the sectionals.
Nauset’s 200 freestyle relay team comprised of senior Alexa Colella, sophomore Isabelle Harwicke, freshman Erin McFarland and eighth-grader Laura Kaser also qualified for sectionals after finishing in second behind Barnstable (1:51.72) with a 1:52.24 – less than a half second faster than the 1:52.42 qualifying time.
Stevens said she was pleased to see boys and girls from every grade contribute in some form, especially Kaser and fellow eighth-grader Loring Eldred, who competes for the boys.
“Last year we weren’t able to do the [eighth grade] waiver, so this year we have two eighth graders on the team, which has been amazing,” Stevens said. “We have a solid group of freshmen and sophomores and kids that didn’t swim last year because of COVID that have come back.”
There were other advanced stats that Stevens was thrilled to see in the team’s first meet of this season, including senior Will Small shedding a full 10 seconds off his time in the 100 free. Crowell also shed two seconds in the same event.
“Those were definitely two impressive swims,” the coach said.
The Warriors were scheduled to visit Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday afternoon for their first dual meet of the season. The Vineyarders did not participate in Saturday’s carnival.
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BradJoyal