Belleville resident boosts Montclair Kimberley Academy In Eastern Swim Championships

From left are Montclair Kimberley Academy swimmers Phoebe Hirsh, Marin levers, Sofia Vinasco.
The MKA swimmers gather at the Easterns held at Franklin & Marshall College’s Kunkel Aquatic Center in Lancaster, Pa.

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — It is a prestigious season-ending meet where some of the nation’s top scholastic swimmers have gone for many years looking to compete against other teams – yes – but also with the quest to produce one’s best times of the year.

In the case of Montclair Kimberley Academy, it has been a tradition to go to the Eastern Interscholastic Swimming Championships which were held this year on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 25-26, at Franklin & Marshall College’s Kunkel Aquatic Center in Lancaster Pa.

The Easterns are the premier prep school swimming and diving meet in the country with 42 teams represented this year.

The Cougars, who had recently completed solid winning seasons in the Super Essex Conference–Liberty Division, looked to end the 2021-2022 campaign on a high note, which they accomplished as their 11-member contingent came through with four relay teams qualifying for finals and three individuals resetting MKA school records in their events.

“Heading into the Easterns our practices were focused on conditioning and race prep,” said MKA interim head coach Gretchen Ievers. “With this solid foundation, swimmers responded to our taper and every swimmer swam best times.

“It’s incredible that with every race came best times. Even the relays swam faster at night in the finals. This is a testament to the drive and determination of our swimmers. They were focused and ready to race.

“This meet was the culmination of our season and was a huge success!”

Junior Sofia Vinasco of Belleville swam the 50-free (28.27) and had a 2-second drop in her 100-backstroke time of 1:10.95.

The four relays earning spots in the finals were the girls 200-medley with Marin and Kellen Ievers, Lindsey Driever and Mia Forysiak, finishing with a season best time of 2:03.41; the boys 200-medley with Raghav Cholappadi, Andrew Kim, Wesley Tse and Rohan Jain which finished with is best time of 1:50.23; the girls 200-free relay, with Driever, Bella Masella, Kellen Ievers and Forysiak, which finished with a best time of 1:47.95, and the boys 200-free relay with Tse, Jain, Kim and Cholappadi, which finished with a best time of 1;38.94.

MKA girls co-captains Forysiak and Masella helped boost the girls in the individual events as well with the former breaking her own MKA school record in the 100-free with a 57.15, while also competing in the 50-free along with Masella (27.75), who also beat her personal best in the 100-butterfly by two seconds (1:05.69), which was a MKA season record in that event.

Driever, a junior standout, broke her own MKA school record in the 200-free (2:00.99) while also swimming the 500-free.

Sophomore Kellen Ievers dropped two seconds off her 200-free time (2:06.39) and three seconds off her 100-breaststroke time (1:15.67).

Freshman Marin Ievers accomplished a drop of seven seconds in her 200-Individual Medley time (2:35.94) and also dropped three seconds in her 100-breaststroke (1:09.85).

Freshman Phoebe Hirsh swam her best time in the 50-free (29.60) and 100-back (1:12.07), which was also a 2-second drop.

On the boys side, senior co-captain Tse had his best time in the 100-fly (1:05.86) and 100-free (58.80).

Fellow seniors Cholappadi, Jain and Km also excelled. Cholappadia was the only MKA swimmer to qualify for the finals in an individual event with his 55.15 in the 100-fly. He also swam the 100-back (57.58).

Jain dropped six seconds off his 200-I.M. time (2:31.82) and a whopping drop of 12 seconds in the 500-free (6:04.84).

Kim swam his best time yet in the 50-free (23:02) also breaking his own MKA school record. He also swam his best time in the 100-free (51.10) breaking his own MKA season mark for that event.

During the regular SEC season, the MKA boys finished 6-2 overall and 3-0 in the Liberty Division, while the Cougar girls were 5-3 including 2-1 in the division.

MKA’s athletic department did very well in landing both Ievers and her assistant Megan Felber shortly before the season as the pair stepped into do a superb job as interim coaches for the recently-completed season.

levers, a former standout at Bucknell University has extensive experience that includes a stint as an assistant coach at the College of Holy Cross, while Felber is familiar to local swimmers as a coach at both the Montclair YMCA and Montclair Beach Club.

Photos Courtesy of MKA swimming