By Alice Roche Cody
For his first stint as a head swim coach, Mike Schaefer found himself working with a dream team. His girls' squad showed dedication and perseverance and ended up breaking two GSB records.
"How hard they worked, how much they wanted to win, and the success of this team – that was all on these girls," he said. "All I did was guide them. It was a great season, despite it being shortened and having less practices. Everyone made the most of it."
At the season opener against Somerville, the 200 Medley Relay racers, Margaux Scott '24, Maddie Soultanian '22, Tahlia Kofman '24, and Scooter Hulsen '22 swam a 2:02.53, breaking the 2018 GSB record by 5.42 seconds. But they didn't stop there. Against Bernards High, they reset their record-time to 2:00.53.
Also at the opener, Margaux swam the 100 Breaststroke with a time of 1:12.12, beating the old one by 7.07 seconds. Then against Bernards, she broke her own record with 1:10:47.
"I'm so proud of them all," said Coach Schaefer. "The four medley swimmers kept working extremely hard and didn't stop. They kept pushing to get a new record. And the goal for Margaux next year is to swim it under 1:10." And he has no doubt she'll achieve it.
Coach Schaefer praised his co-captains, Laura Howard '21 and Lena Dreskin '21, for their earnest commitment to their team's safety. "Laura and Lena were the world's best mask police," he said. "They made sure our swimmers had masks on at meets and followed social distancing guidelines. I'm proud that they didn't let pandemic shake them."
With only one swimmer on the boys' side, Ryan Brandl '22 served as the third captain and helped Assistant Coach Donna Bednarsky. "There was a lot thrown at him, with an injury and no official boys' team, but he always wanted to be there," said Coach Schaefer. "He had the biggest smile when he was cleared to practice again, and he proved to be a super-force." With a co-ed meet against Franklin, Ryan had the opportunity to swim the 50 freestyle and the 200-freestyle relay and got close to his career best time.
Being new to the head coach role, Coach Schaefer offered his thanks to Assistant Coach Bednarsky for her assistance and support. "We would not have been as successful without her contributions and dedication to the team," he said.
Throughout the season, Schaefer's swimmers adapted seamlessly to pandemic protocols and threats of possible COVID-19 pauses. With the swim start date shifting from December to February 1, his team changed gears to virtual practices and regular team Zoom calls. Once they started, the possibility of pandemic shutdowns loomed large. "The whole time, we could have shut down at a moment's notice," he said. "I'm glad we made it through eight weeks and didn't have to stop. It was a great season."