Metuchen High School is thriving in the pool this winter.
The Bulldogs’ girls’ swim team is 10-0, beating South Plainfield High School, 68-26, in its most recent meet on Jan. 10. Metuchen’s boys’ swim squad is 9-1, also topping South Plainfield, 68-26, in its most recent meet on Jan. 10.
Both teams are very strong this year. Coach Jim Thomas has talent and depth on both sides.
“We have a pretty good senior class with girls and boys. We are also deep,” Thomas said. “The sophomore class is relatively strong as well.”
On the girls’ side, senior Sarah Jeney and sophomore Kyra Stolarski can swim in, and win, any race involving any stroke.
“Sarah Jeney can do any spot I put her in. She’s a good, hard swimmer who is willing to do anything. She’s our standout,” Thomas said. “Kyra is versatile too. She can do a little bit of everything. She’s a very solid swimmer who can give us a lot of stuff in the lineup.”
Sophomore Bridget Thomas is “a double practicer,” as Thomas calls her. She practices with the Metuchen team after school and then on her own, at the Westfield YMCA, which has produced elite swimmers for many years.
Her commitment has developed her ability to swim multiple strokes and distances.
“Bridget is a standout,” Thomas said. “It’s her hard work.”
Freshman Caroline Schleif is a swimmer and track runner. Running has helped her in the pool in multiple ways, physically as a sprinter and mentally as an individual athlete. Schleif carries the Bulldogs in sprinting events in the pool.
“She’s a real good runner and is good in sprint events. Running complements swimming to some degree,” Thomas said. “There’s a similarity with it being an individual sport and the dedication. It’s not easy.”
Senior Julian Park and sophomore Alan Xia are leading the Metuchen boys’ team. Park is elite in almost every event. Xia is emerging in each stroke.
“If Julian doesn’t beat the best swimmer, he’ll be right there. He’s our most talented swimmer,” Thomas said. “Allen is a younger version of Julian. It doesn’t matter what I put him in. Any event, he does great.”
Park is a natural talent who works hard. Xia is a hard worker who is maximizing his talent. Like Thomas, Xia is a double practicer. He goes straight from Metuchen’s practices to his own, at the Metuchen YMCA.
“Allen is a tremendously hard worker,” Thomas said. “He has gotten so much better because of his hard work.”
Senior Chris Whittington and sophomore Alex Liu complement Park and Xia. Whittington specializes in sprinting events. Liu, like Park and Xia, is versatile and can swim any stroke competitively.
“Chris is a dedicated sprinter who does a nice job. He’s a solid swimmer,” Thomas said. “Alex Liu is like an Alan. A real good swimmer who has stepped on the scene this year and given us versatility.”
Everything is coming together for both of Thomas’s teams. The coach thinks both squads are capable of making postseason runs.
The Bulldogs are hoping to qualify for the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group C sectional meet. They are also shooting for top five finishes in the Greater Middlesex Conference championship.
“Hopefully we qualify for the state tournament. That’s always a goal,” Thomas said. “In the GMC hopefully the girls finish top three and the boys top five. That’s a goal as well.”