Hand returns to pool deck, teaching young swimmers how to compete for titles

Catherine Arrandale, Kacie Wines, Abbi Chemacki and Grace Sweeney are seniors on the Daniel Hand girls' swimming and diving team.

Catherine Arrandale, Kacie Wines, Abbi Chemacki and Grace Sweeney are seniors on the Daniel Hand girls’ swimming and diving team.

Daniel Hand Athletics / Contributed photo

Daniel Hand girls’ swimming and diving coach Jen Lyman has witnessed many things in her two decades of mentoring swimmers in Madison. Nothing rivaled what occurred when Hand visited Lyman Hall to open the season.

“Our sophomores and freshmen had no clue what a bus trip was, what our warmups are like or how a swim meet orchestrates itself,” Lyman said about returning to dual meets from the virtual variety that dominated the 2020 campaign. “It was a year and 10 months for our juniors and seniors. Win, lose or tie, it was great to get the girls back on the swim deck, to be able to compete in person again.”

This is a learning, not a rebuilding year, for Hand, which is 2-1 thus far.

“We take pride in having Tiger toughness, to excel as one unit against every opponent,” said Lyman, whose squad won the 2018 Class M title and were runners-up in 2019. “That is what these girls are learning. It’s nice to see we didn’t take a step back. We had a chance to recultivate while holding on to things that have carried us.”

Lyman’s senior co-captains Kacie Wines and Abbi Cemeaski are four-year varsity swimmers.

“Both carry on fun traditions outside the pool, but make sure the work in the pool is done first,” Lyman said. “It has been great for the underclassmen to watch and look to emulate them.”

Versatility is important to earning points to ensure the team’s success.

Lyman said: “I can put Kacie anywhere, sprint freestyle, distance freestyle, backstroke, butterfly. If you look at the years that she’s swum in championships for us it has been something different every time. It is the same with Abbi. She swims the distance events, 200 free 500 free, and can go 200 IM and 100-breaststroke.”

Seniors Catherine Arrandale and Grace Sweeney and juniors Julia Urbowicz and Hannah Campbell are the other upperclassmen.

“Catherine is injured and helping her teammates and coaches in any area she can,” Lyman said of the four-year team member. “She is positive and represents us well. Grace swam with us freshman year then went to Old Saybrook, where she was a team of one. When that team separated, she transferred as a student to Hand High. Grace’s butterfly is something to watch and she can swim sprint freestyle. Julia has been with us three years working hard and helping lead in the butterfly and freestyle. Hannah had knee surgery as a freshman. She came out last year during COVID. It is almost like she is a freshman again. She had never seen a dual meet, bus trips, championships. That will be her junior experience. She swims freestyle and backstroke.”

Lyman and assistant coach Christina Forristall boast a talented group of freshmen and sophomores

“It is a very talented freshman class. We have five sophomores contributing. There is a lot of ability and we are excited to see that talent grow,” Lyman said.

Hand is scheduled to host its final home meet Friday at the Madison Racquet & Swim Club’s outdoor pool. Six road meets close the regular season. Then comes the SCC and Class M championships, where the goal annually is to finish in the top six.

“The girls want to showcase all the work they are putting in at the postseason meets,” Lyman said. “We want to allow our preparation to give us confidence. When we walk into those meets, we know one thing: We’ve done all the work we’ve needed to do; now we just need to perform.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354