The Andover 200-Meter Medley Relay ‘A’ team of Jack Warden ’19, Captain Neil Simpson ’19, Lance Freiman ’19, and Arnold Su ’20 set a new National High School record on Saturday in Andover’s first race of the 2018-2019 season. The team swam a time of 1:41.15 minutes, breaking the previous Short-Course Meters (SCM) record of 1:43.97 minutes set by Baylor School of Tennessee in 2017.
Warden opened the race with a backstroke leg of 25.66 seconds, followed by Simpson’s breaststroke leg of 28.12 seconds, Freiman’s butterfly leg of 24.74 seconds, and Su’s freestyle leg of 22.63 seconds.
In addition to the National Relay Medley record, Warden broke the Choate pool 100 SCM Backstroke record in 57.95 seconds, and Simpson broke the New England and Choate pool records in the 100 SCM Breaststroke in 1:05.66 minutes. The races set the tone for a dominant first meet at Choate, which Andover dominated 124-59 to put its record at 1-0.
The relay medley team’s success has developed from previous accomplishments. Last season, the relay medley team also broke the New England Short-Course Yards record at New England’s with a time of 1:31.15 minutes, and in 2017, Warden, Simpson, Su, and Christian Alberga ’17 set the SCM 200-Meter Medley Relay record with a time of 1:47.22 minutes.
According to Head Coach David Fox, he began preparing the team to break the medley relay record in October.
In an email to The Phillipian, Fox wrote, “Jack, Neil, Lance, and Arnold currently hold the New England record in yards, so it was pretty easy to identify them as our strongest combination for the medley relay right now. I became aware of the national high school record in meters in the middle of October, and although the record was significantly faster than our program has ever swum in a dual-meet, I thought it would be a good goal for the first meet. I texted the four swimmers about a week later, and they immediately got excited about the possibility. I was pretty confident that they had a good chance to break the record; the actual performance, though, 1:41.15, was much more than I expected.”
The team prepared to break the record over the course of the fall by swimming in clubs and at Andover. Warden and Freiman swam as members of local clubs while Simpson and Su had speed coming out of the water polo season, according to Coach Fox.
Fox continued, “Although it is counter-intuitive, it was actually advantageous to have the only chance to break this particular record in the first event of the first meet… Had the opportunity been later in the season—or even later in the meet—I do not think they would have gone quite so fast. They all just returned from heavy training back home during the Thanksgiving recess, but they were also well-rested precisely because they were not in the middle of an academic term.”
Simpson said, “The thanksgiving break was very important for our training. We all went home and worked hard over break to be ready for swimming the moment we arrived back on campus. As our focus for the entirety of the season is Easterns in February, we were not focusing on this meet in particular. That being said, every race is an opportunity to prepare for the end of the season and we did our best to take advantage.”
Before the race, the team knew it had the opportunity to break the record, and they relied on each other and each other’s energy.
Warden wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “I was just feeling super amped before the race. I had a feeling in my stomach that something big was about to happen, and I channeled my nervous energy into excitement. Having three other teammates and close friends behind me when I was standing behind the block along with other team members cheering us on just provided me with a sense of camaraderie that added to the overall excitement of the experience.”
Freiman wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “We knew that we had a shot at the record but we approached the relay with the same intentions as always: to swim as fast as possible. We can’t control the record but we can control how fast we swim. Everyone was fired up after the race and it was a great way to start the meet and the season.”
The relay team’s record-breaking served as inspiration for the underclassmen on the team, according to Hank Yang ’22.
Yang said, “As for myself, as a new guy, in his first meet to witness history so fast, I was really inspiring for myself as well to see them really want this record, because it was pretty obvious they wanted it. It also inspired me to work harder, and hopefully to be like them in the future.”
In addition to the record-breaking races, the team won every event although the team was missing several swimmers due to the SAT tests that day. Andover swept the 200-Meter Freestyle, with Sam Donchi ’20 winning in a time of 1:56.00, followed by Anthony Minickiello ’20 and Yang.
Andover also swept the following event, the 200-Meter IM, with Simpson winning in a time of 2:11.64; .26 seconds separated Freiman’s second place finish, followed by Rick Ono ’19 in third. Donchi and Minickiello again placed first and second in the 400-Meter Freestyle, followed by Max Fang ’22, with Donchi winning in a time of 4:10.93.
In the diving competition, Zack Peng ’21 and Jack Curtin ’19 placed second and fourth with scores of 278.15 and 136.35, respectively.
Marcus Lee ’21 said, “Four of our guys broke the national record and… besides those guys I think everyone else on the team also deserves a lot of props because everyone put in a lot of work over the break, and we knew that we were going to show-out at this meet, so we all did our best and did our best at trying to prepare ourselves, and I think everyone gets to pat themselves on the back because everyone did a really good job.”
According to Yang, Warden, and Fox, the team will be training intensely during the two-week period before Christmas break in anticipation of important meets like the Eastern Interscholastic Swimming Championships and the New England Championships at the end of the season. Last year, the team placed second out of twenty-eight schools at the Easterns and first at New Englands.
Warden wrote, “As a whole, I think that our team has a lot left in the tank in terms of improvement. All 18 guys on our team put up some fantastic performances at this meet, albeit the start of a season with little training under our belt so far. We still have a lot of hard work and refining ahead of us in the next couple months that will ultimately make us faster at the end of the season. I can’t wait to build off this fantastic start to the season.”
Editor’s Note: Rick Ono is a Sports Editor for The Phillipian.