Eighth-grader Jane Brierley admits she had no aspiration of joining the swim team until a friend of hers said it’d be fun if the two of them joined together. Making the varsity team after suffering a shoulder injury this past summer, she was unsure of how competitive she’d be. She was also worried about being younger and smaller than the rest of the girls. But despite all her skepticism and doubt, the East Hampton swim team newcomer is heading to the state championship to compete in three different events this weekend.
“At the beginning of the season I was still out of shape from my injury — it was kind of scary,” she said. “But it’s actually been kind of fun, it’s competitive. I love it now.”
Brierley will take part in the 100-yard breast stroke, and the Bonackers’ 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays.
“Their effort, dedication, and the fact that we can keep it fun, no matter how difficult the sport is, is how they’ve gotten to where they are now,” said head coach Craig Brierley. “They were motivated all season — they had aspirations — and there are a select few that have moved onto the highest point.”
The coach’s daughter Julia, a junior, who is not related to Jane, is also on the relay teams. At the Suffolk County championship, both broke previous personal bests for East Hampton to help the girls move up in the seeding. Almost every girl who competed actually broke personal best times.
“So much of it is mental and their belief, and I think they stepped up at an important competition,” the coach said.
The 200 freestyle relay finished second in 1 minute, 40.12 seconds, and the 200 medley came in third with a time of 1:49.53. Julia Brierley said she’s excited to head to states after just missing the chance to last season.
“We were pretty successful this year,” she said. “We all had a lot of fun, and that’s what it’s all about. All of our hard work led up to this.”
The junior is in the first leg in the medley and third in the freestyle. She said before getting into the water she listens to music and does a few leg and arm warmups, but tries not to think about the magnitude of the competition.
“I went in and I was super excited to swim,” Brierley said. “I was having so much fun. All our friends and family were cheering us on. It was a great atmosphere.”
Her teammate said the environment motivated the Bonackers.
“The pressure and the atmosphere help you swim faster,” Jane Brierley said. “There’s a whole different energy than normal varsity meets. It’s very competitive.”
The eighth-grader placed fifth in the breast stroke at the county championship in 1:07.79. She also came in 10th in the 50-yard freestyle, saying she was disappointed after slipping off the block, which added a second to her overall time. She touched the wall in 25.77 seconds. Julia Brierley placed 11th in 1:12.51. The junior also came in eighth in the 100 backstroke in 1:01.37.
Taking the second leg, swimming the breast stroke, in both relays, Jane Brierley took off following her teammate’s start in the freestyle. She said she just kept repeating to herself: “Swim faster. Go. Don’t screw this up.”
“I didn’t think I was going to make states,” she said. “I’m excited. The whole county is like one team now.”
Junior Sophia Swanson will also be competing in the relays and the 100 butterfly after placing fourth in 59.35 seconds.
“It was a good season,” she said. “We swam really fast. We haven’t made states for our two relays in years. We dropped a lot of time. We’re motivated. We want to not only compete but compete at a higher level.”
Senior Oona Foulser, the Bonackers’ co-captain, is the last member of the relay. She also placed 11th in the 100 freestyle in 57.17 seconds. Camryn Hatch placed 13th in 57.75 seconds.
“Before they made the state cut I told them I think they can do it, what matters is what they think,” coach Brierley said. “We’re going to wind them up again this weekend and see what they have left. I’m sure they could do more. It’s now on them and what they believe.”
The state championships will be held at Ithaca College November 16 and 17 beginning at 8 AM.