A leisurely swim is one of summer’s greatest pleasures enjoyed by many but for Horace Greeley’s Boys Swim and Dive Team, summer is the time for tough workouts in the pool to prep for next season. They are hoping to clinch the State Championship Title for a third year in a row.
This past spring, the 35-member team won that title at Ithaca College for a second year in a row, and were the first team in Greeley’s history to win back-to-back state titles. The boys practice year-round, including the summer, and swim for approximately 15 hours weekly plus two land workouts weekly consisting of strength training workouts and stretching. It is a grueling schedule with some students waking up prior to 5 a.m. for morning practice, but many of these students have been swimming since they were in elementary school and are truly dedicated to the sport.
The team is hoping for a three-peat this year despite graduating six talented swimmers. Swim coach Meg Kaplan notes that the “rising junior class is filled with state level swimmers who have two to three years of state swimming under their belt. They are determined to direct the team to win another championship one at a time – league, conference, sectional, New York State and Federation. It is a goal that has not been accomplished by any other team in NY state history.”
Harriet Engel, mother of senior swimmers Eric and Oliver, explains that the Greeley swim team or what many refer to as “G-swim” is run differently than a team sport. The boys swim under the Greeley banner but many practice under the tutelage of Zac Hojnacki, the Head Coach of the Marlins, a swim club based out of the Mount Kisco-based Boys and Girls Club of Northern Westchester.
Engels’ boys began swimming at age seven for the Willowbrook swim team and eventually landed at the Boys and Girls Club with the Marlins. Of the ten boys who qualified for States this past spring, nine swim with the Marlins and one for the Larchmont-based Badgers. “The G-swim legacy is due in large part to the Marlins’ success,” explains Engel.
“During COVID it became abundantly clear the boys need the G-swim team. They love the high school team. It is a lot of fun for these boys and they bond as a group. You can see the smile on their faces on the deck. Swimming is a solitary sport. When they swim for their club, they are swimming for themselves but when they swim for G-swim they are swimming for team glory,” Engel says.
Hojnacki believes the team’s success is due to their values as a group. “They have a great culture and are passionate about the team. They embrace each individual’s success which propels them as a group,” he notes. Hojnacki who has been with the Marlins for the past five years has noticed that the G-swim team has progressively taken the sport of swimming more seriously and really bought into a culture of training excellence not just for the Marlins but also for their performance on G-swim. He works with several swimmers from various high schools throughout Westchester and has been impressed by the Greeley boys and offers a recent anecdote. “This morning after practice we were pulling lane lines which is basically grunt work. A few years ago maybe only a few kids would willingly do this. Now we have 20 or 30 kids helping each other and they treat one another with respect. The camaraderie, sportsmanship and teamwork play a role in their success and has them performing at a higher level.”
Meeting Goals & Striking a Balance
Hojnacki is also grateful for the ongoing dialogue that he has with Kaplan and the Greeley team. “We have the same goals, and it is about finding a balance between the G-swim and the club’s practice schedules, meets etc.,” says Hojnacki who is currently training some of the Greeley swimmers for nationals and even Olympic trials.
Hudson Chung, a former captain who just graduated Greeley will swim for the University of Chicago this fall. He believes the combination of coaches is crucial to their success. “Coach Meg who does the line-ups helps us achieve a win on every level from sectionals to divisionals to states while Coach Zac is amazing and helps push us to our limits,” he says.
So will the G-swim team be able to have a three-peat this year? Kaplan and Hojnacki both think it is possible to accomplish. “They need to remain focused, train to their maximum ability and stay off the injury list. It’s the character and trust in their brotherhood and drive and determination that fuels the swim team forward,” Kaplan adds.
These swimmers train seven days a week from before the sun rises to after the sun sets. Despite the fact that Greeley does not have a pool. “Where there is a will, there is a way. Come watch a meet at SUNY Purchase. We will for sure not disappoint,” she sums up.