The Westfield High School boys and girls swim teams ruled the pool at the Public A State Championships Saturday afternoon at The College of New Jersey and were welcomed home like the winners they are.
For the second year in a row both the boys and girls teams bested their opponents to take the state title. In a Blue Devil vs. Red Devil matchup, the No. 1 Westfield girls team bested No. 4 Hunterdon Central, 91-79, while the No. 3 Westfield boys took on No. 2 Bridgewater-Raritan and came out on top, 97-73. This is the fourth consecutive win for the girls team and the second for the boys team.
Caroline Baldwin said setting this record of back-to-back wins by both teams has been a goal since the beginning of the season.
"It couldn't have gone any better," said Baldwin, who took first place in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle and 200 medley relay.
Assistant coaches Mike Schwebel and Ashley Westra agreed that the swimmers exceeded their expectations.
"Two school records fell today," Schwebel said, referring to Baldwin's breaking the 50 and 100 girls freestyle records. "Ellie (Reinhardt) and Becky (Zhang) were great leaders and so were the four captains of the boys team."
Schwebel said while the boys team captains, all seniors, will be missed, one thing that makes Westfield's teams so special is their depth.
"That's our biggest strength," he said. "Other teams might have better swimmers, what we have is depth. We'll take the fourth and fifth places and that wins it for us everytime."
Reinhardt, who was recently selected as a high school Top Performer by The Star Ledger, bested Jessica Ambrose of Hunterdon Central in the 500-yard freestyle event and also took the top spot in the 200-yard freestyle, with a time of 1:54.93.
"This was my last meet with the team and it was an amazing way to end my career," said the senior co-captain, who will be swimming for Middlebury College next year.
The boys received a standing ovation when they clinched the title, winning first, second and fourth place in the 100-yard breaststroke. Taking first place was Tyler Lessner, with a time of 1:02.6. They also won the top three spots in the 100-yard butterfly, led by Stephen Husch with Lessner second and Max Shin third.
Emma Conlon, who traveled to Ewing to root for her brother Gavin and the Blue Devils, said it was an exciting afternoon.
"It wasn't as close as it was last year, but it was great, everyone was cheering," she said.
After the teams arrived back in Westfield by bus, they were escorted through town by the Westfield police and fire departments. The teams' homecoming was met with cheers, tears and excitement. In the packed WHS cafeteria, head coach Jeff Knight thanked everyone who had a hand in the teams' success, particularly the swimmers' parents.
Quoting 'The A-Team''s Hannibal Smith, Knight said "you gotta love it when a plan comes together."
"These kids put our plan in motion and they made it happen and they did a fantastic job," he said.