March 29, 2006
Little Hurricanes Make Big Waves
"It was so exciting. I couldn't wait to get there!"
Eight-year-old Katie Brierley, surrounded by a group of animated girlfriends, exploded with enthusiasm thinking back to just a few weeks ago, when they all competed in the New York State YMCA Swim Meet Championships.
Enthusiasm bubbling to the surface, the girls talked about the sheer size of the state competitions, the best part about being on the team, and the really cool hotel they got to stay in. Back on the East End, they gathered last Wednesday evening at the East Hampton YMCA where they received their awards and medals for a job well done.
This was a successful year for the East Hampton Hurricanes Swim Team, which took home, among many individual awards, second place overall for girls eight and under, and first place for girls eight and under 100 yard freestyle relay. The Hurricanes competed against 40 other teams across the state in Buffalo from March 17-19.
"I was very impressed with how well they did," said head coach Tom Cohill.
Cohill, along with coaches Brian Cunningham, Amanda Husslein, and Julie Higgins, have been training this
73-member team an hour and a half a day, four to five days a week. Only 26 swimmers went to States this year,
but Cohill encourages all of his kids to compete at least once during the season, which stretches from September to
There have been about 15 meets, including the Junior Olympics over the course of the 2005-06 season.
The Hurricanes, which formed just four years ago, are a diverse group of swimmers, ranging in age from six to 18, and in region from Montauk to Manorville and even the North Fork. Christina Brierley, a parent of three young teammates, said that what she finds most striking about the team is how it operates like a family, with the older swimmers looking after the younger ones. "It's amazing," she said.
A warm and supportive team is essential, especially since pre-race jitters can be a regular occurrence in the world of competitive swimming. Standing on the block, waiting for the gun to go off, can strike the nerves of even the strongest swimmer.
Morgan German, 10, admitted it can be pretty scary just before the race, but "once you get out of the water and hear how well you did, you get really excited."
At nine years of age, Myles Blatt said that the competition can sometimes be a little nerve wracking, but the confidence he has in his team helps him overcome those moments.
Swimmers aren't the only ones who get apprehensive. Christina Brierley and her husband, Craig also get the butterflies-in-the-stomach syndrome watching their children compete.
"You're on pins and needles," she said. "You try not to get emotional about it but you do."
Clearly, competitive swimming runs in the Brierley family, with three talented swimmers making waves on the team. Christian, 7; Katie, 8; and Thomas, 9, have all received medals this year after the States events. Thomas also went to the Junior Olympics in February, and Christian was the youngest swimmer on the team to go to States this year.
From lasting friendships to physical prowess, the Hurricanes listed many benefits to being on the team.
"My favorite part is how I like my coaches and how I like having my friends on the team," said Caitlin DeCara, 8. Her sister Meaghan, 11, agreed. "I love being with my friends," she said.
The best part about being on the team is "you get to get stronger and you have a lot of fun," said Thomas Brierley.
"I like meeting people from different places," added Maddie Minetree, 12.
Social perks aside, the team also offers a measure of discipline through its daily workouts, and benefits are felt out of the water.
Adriel Reboh, 17, admitted he was never much of an athlete, but swimming has always been a good outlet for him. "I like coming after school," he said. "It gives me more energy," which helps him get through his second shift in the day — the homework.
Still basking in the glow of their wins, the team is readying for yet another exciting adventure. In April, 30 swimmers will train with a team in Ireland for 10 days. After that, it's back to business as usual, as the coaches and their protégés prepare for what looks to be their next successful season.
See additional coverage on page 16.