Comets ride youth and development to seventh place state finish
Ali Sami | The Chronicle
The Mason girls swimming team once again closed off a successful season thanks to a reloaded roster of talented underclassmen.
The girl’s swim team and head coach Mark Sullivan have built one of the most consistent athletic programs in Mason. The Comets won back-to-back state championships in 2018 and 2019 and were state runner-ups in 2021.
After a 16th-place finish at state last year, the team improved to a seventh-place finish this season. This success came largely in part to numerous underclassmen stepping up in the postseason. Senior Emma Hartman, the team’s only returning state placer from 2022, said that Coach Sullivan always preaches a vital message that carries a big meaning for team chemistry that helps them succeed.
“I feel like something that Coach Sulli- van always preaches is that a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer’ and that really motivates all of us,” Hartman said.
Sophomore Chloe Wall finished in 15th place in the 200-meter Individual Medley and was on both state-placing freestyle relays. Wall said that this group of swimmers was very close-knit, and it helped them achieve their success.
“The most important part isn’t necessarily swimming fast. Wall said. “It’s more about team chemistry and everybody getting along and having fun.”
Freshmen Dana Fairbanks and Bella Teply were each key members of the state roster. Fairbanks placed 14th in the 200-meter freestyle event and was on the 200-meter medley relay and 400-meter freestyle relay, which placed fifth and ninth at state. Teply was part of the 200 freestyle relay that placed sixth and the 400-meter relay. Hartman credited the Comets’ im- proved placement at state to the boost the newer swimmers brought.
“I feel like the team atmosphere, like gaining the freshmen, brought us together more this year and really helped us to do better,” Hartman said.
Junior Addy Soehnlen said that a main priority for the upperclassmen was to be supportive of the freshmen and sophomores, because they knew that they had the potential to make a major impact right away.
“The saying ‘a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer’ means a lot because if there’s
a good team atmosphere then everything clicks,” Soehnlen said. “If everyone feels unified, then we all do good.”
Wall said that swimming for your teammates is what motivates them to swim, and it is a massive part of the success they have had in the past and the success they can have.
“Swimming is an individual and team sport. Obviously, you swim for yourself and also for a team relay, but it’s more than that.” Wall said. “You swim for one another.”
Coach Sullivan has been coaching the girls team for 18 years. He said he saw things click with this year’s young nucleus ahead of their postseason run.
“I saw something really special once everyone started to gel together,” Sullivan said. “Once they gelled together, I started seeing their performances really stand out.”
Sullivan said that he noticed this group embracing the fun of the sport and hopes that it will help them carry over success as they grow over the next few years.
“If you are having fun and are enjoying what you’re doing, success is typically going to be there for the athlete, particularly in swimming,” Sullivan said.
Photo contributed by Bella Teply