For the first time in school history, the boys’ and girls’ swim teams will be competing in the Skyland Conference this winter.
Officially joining the conference has been many years in the making, as the program traditionally competed as a co-ed team - with boys and girls swimming on the same relays and competing within the same event. That changed last year, when the team split into separate boys’ and girls’ varsity programs. The girls’ squad went 6-3, qualified for the state tournament in its first year of eligibility, and defeated swimming powerhouse Gloucester Catholic in the first round to advance to the quarterfinals. The boys’ squad also qualified for the state tournament – making Gill one of the few schools in the state to have both teams make the playoffs.
“We were fortunate to have a lot of success in our first season as a varsity program; that usually does not happen in swimming,” said head coach Nolan Silbernagel, who is entering his fourth year at the helm of the program. “Now, we get to compete in the Skyland Conference and see what we can do. This seemed like an impossible goal four years ago, but the team has grown so much in size, skill, and dedication, and it is another huge step forward for this program. I am excited to see the swimmers rise to the occasion.”
Leading the way on the girls’ side will be two-time Meet of Champions qualifier and captain Becca Michaels ’20. Also serving as captains with Michaels are Kelsey Breuer ’20, Caroline Grant ’20, and Laura Howard ’21. A strong sophomore class that includes Annie Chowansky, Scooter Hulsen, Maddie and Olivia Soultanian, Ella Quincy, and Anne Wang provides valuable depth for GSB. On the boys’ side, the Knights will be anchored by senior captains Rob Brandl, Adrian Massuet, Evan Matthews, and Jonathan Osma, as well as junior sprinter Jake Baber.
“I am really optimistic about this season,” said Silbernagel. “We did not have a single senior girl on last year’s team, so we have that same talented core returning and have added some strong swimmers as well. It will be hard, but they definitely have a chance to win the division this year. On the boys’ side, we lost three great swimmers to graduation, but have added three newcomers, and they have already been improving markedly. We have a huge senior class with exceptional kids on both teams, so having their experience and leadership will be really vital as we race throughout the season.”
GSB begins conference play on Wednesday, December 4, against Rutgers Prep. Other big meets on the schedule include the Skyland Conference Championships (January 18), Somerset County Championships (January 25), and the Prep Championships (early February).