LINCOLN — Even in the throes of defeat, there was no taming the excitement of Lincoln High sophomore Nicole Moneghan and freshman Mollie Westrick.
Even before the Lions had suffered a 56-38 Division II loss to Mount St. Charles at the MacColl YMCA natatorium on Thursday afternoon, Moneghan – still in the pool after winning the 500-yard freestyle – splashed around in her lane after receiving word from head coach Tom DiIorio she had finally broken the coveted six-minute mark.
“I did what?” she grinned.
Later, she couldn't believe her good fortune; she had spent months trying to eclipse her previous best clocking of 6:06.3, but now will try to better her new best time of 5:54.47.
“I sure didn't expect it,” she gushed later. “I had been in the 200 medley relay swimming the 50 (butter)fly, and I didn't do very well. It just felt wrong. I've been waiting a long time to do that.
“I train with the Envious swim team (a Warwick-based USA Swimming club team) at Bryant (University), and I felt really good after practices during Christmas vacation. In fact, I'd say it was the best week of practice I've had all season.
“I got a good night's sleep (Wednesday night), but I still felt tired from those workouts in my race. I don't know how I did it, but I'm sure glad I did.”
An added thrill came in only the second event on the program, when she achieved another PR of 2:11.96 while capturing the 200-yard freestyle. With it, she gained her first “double-winner” status of the campaign.
Westrick, on the other hand, didn't achieve personal records on this day, but easily snared the 200 individual medley (2:18.14) and 100 butterfly (1:04.47), then anchored the triumphant 200 freestyle relay (also consisting of sophomore Casey Gagnon with freshmen Danielle Jorge and Emily Jacobson, which finished in 1:55.47).
This is Westrick's first go-around competing on the high school level, and she's reveling in it.
“It's so much fun!” she stated. I live swimming for Envious (with Moneghan), but this is different. We all go on the bus together, in school together and we'll eat lunch together. I know a lot of my teammates from the (Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland/Lincoln) Penguins, so this is great.”
As for her times, she claimed the individual medley and butterfly races aren't her primary events – those include the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke – but she swam them for the team.
“Those aren't my best events, but I'm pretty excited about my IM time because I thought it was a good race, and I was also pretty close to my best time. We have some pretty good sprint freestylers and backstrokers on our team, so when Coach asked me if I wanted to swim the IM and the 50, I just said, 'Sure!'
“I'm honestly more excited about Nicole,” she continued. “I counted for her (each 500 competitor must have a lap counter at the far end of the pool), and I heard the coaches screaming out her name at the end. They knew she could do her best time; I'm so happy for her.”
Alas, the Mounties, who improved to 2-1 overall, mustered the win due to more second- and third-place finishes, not to mention the terrific outing of senior Stephanie Morelle, who took the 50 and 100 freestyles (with respective clockings of 27.48 and 1:02.16) after snagging first in the opening 200 medley relay (she teamed with classmates Kelly O'Neill and Amy Quistberg and freshman Liz Gross). It closed with a time of 2:08.09).
Other individual victories came from O'Neill in the 100 backstroke (1:13.72) and Quistberg in the 100 breaststroke. (Actually, sophomore Judith Dayaw took a key third behind O'Neill to help out in the point total).
“Steph won two events, but I'd say I was most impressed with our freshmen,” stated head coach Bill Evans. “This was a big meet against a good team, and three or four of those girls did their best times ever, even though they were swimming exhibition (meaning they were competing not for points but for experience). Maddie Charbonneau went 2:58.73 in the 200 IM and swam well on a relay.
“Catherine Sherman posted really good splits on the 200 and 400 freestyle relays, and Kelly O'Neill did her best in winning the 100 back. That 1:13.72 was almost a second faster than her previous best, 1:14.7. She's been trying to break that for over a year now, so she's thrilled. And Jillian Barnabe swam the 50 free in 29.9, so that's her first time under 30 (seconds), and she also PR'd in the breaststroke.
“We had a lot of fantastic swims, and this is is a big win for us.”
Noted DiIorio, whose Lions fell to 1-1: “With Nicole, wow! Unbelievable! She didn't just break six minutes, she crushed it. I'm so happy for her. She's a sophomore who had to learn what the event was all about last year, and – actually – she had to relearn it in our first couple of meets this year. Now she knows what she has to do.
“Our girls (comprise) a really young team,” he added. “A lot of them are freshmen and sophomores, so it's all new to them. They used to swim with the Penguins a couple of times a week, that was it, so they're still getting used to practicing five days a week and swimming longer distances.
“As for Mollie, she's just a natural. When I found out she was going to Lincoln High and not a private school, I was, like, 'Thank you, God!' She's got talent, and I've known her – and a lot of these girls – when I coached the Penguins. That's why I couldn't wait for the season to start.”