YMCA of Montclair Dolphins swim team splash to tremendous success at state championships meets

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MONTCLAIR, NJ – Two swimmers were crowned state champions, two others qualified for the upcoming national championships, and two team relay records were smashed, as the YMCA of Montclair Dolphins swim team reached new heights at recent state championships meets.

At the New Jersey YMCA State Championships for swimmers ages 12 and under in Toms River, N.J., from Feb. 23-25, Natalie Dripchak, age 12, of Montclair won the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:30.32, or five seconds faster than her previous best. She also recorded six other top 10 finishes.

Howard Zhuang, 12, of West Orange, meanwhile, won the 100 breaststroke, placed 4th in the 50 breaststroke, and 9th in the 200 breaststroke.

At the New Jersey YMCA State Championships for swimmers ages 13 and older at Franklin and Marshall College from March 8-11, Elizabeth Habjan, 13, of Montclair finished sixth in the 100 backstroke in 59.32 seconds. She also became the first female Dolphin athlete to qualify for the YMCA National Championships, held annually in April in Greensboro, N.C., since three high school seniors (Charlotte O’Leary, Hannah O’Halloran, and Emily O’Halloran) competed in 2016.

At the same meet, Sumner Smith, 14, and Mizell McEachin, 14, both of Montclair, and Killian Blitz, 14, of Verona, powered two record-breaking boys’ relay teams. Together with Christian Remache, 13, of Nutley, they finished the 200 free relay in 1:35.78, eclipsing an eight-year-old team record. They finished in eighth place overall. Then, in the 200 medley relay, Smith, McEachin, and Blitz, together with Connor Townson of Glen Ridge, finished in 1:45.91 — smashing the previous team record by two seconds. That was good for an 11th place finish.

Several Dolphins also participated in individual finals: Habjan, Townson, McEachin, and Edward Madrigal, 18, of Belleville. Madrigal’s time in the 100 butterfly qualified him for another event in the YMCA National Championships, where he was already slated to swim the 200 butterfly.

Several Dolphins also turned in tremendous performances at the New Jersey Short Course Junior Olympics, held at Rutgers University, from March 9-11, for swimmers ages 11 to 14. Among those qualifying for finals were Aly Breikaa, 12, of Bloomfield in the 50 back; Dripchak in the 400 intermediate medley; Carly Frank, 12, of Montclair in the 50 back; and Zhuang in the 50 breast.

“Many of our swimmers registered personal best times and two of our swimmers are State Champions,” said Paulo Madeira, head coach of the Dolphins swim team. “Congratulations to all!”

Next up for the team is the season-ending SunKissed Invitational Junior/Senior Championships of the USA, which will be held in Charlotte, N.C., from April 5-8.

The YMCA of Montclair Dolphins swim team offers a year-round opportunity for competitive swimming in both YMCA and USA Swimming competitions as well as seasonal instructional clinics for aspiring competitive athletes. The team is comprised of girls and boys from age 6 through high school. More than 200 athletes train with the team each year. They compete at all levels, based on their skill set.

For more information about the Montclair YMCA Dolphins swim team, contact head coach Madeira at pmadeira@montclairymca.org or 973-744-3400.