By MIKE SMITH
On Sept. 12, in their first meet of the year, the Harrison Huskies fell by seven points to a vaunted squad from John Jay. If a seven-point loss to a Section I power seems like a good start for the Huskies, it sounds even better when you realize they were outnumbered 41-to-15 in the water.
Harrison might not be fielding the largest squad this year, but, so far, head coach Phil Dearstyne has been impressed with his roster that features nine returnees from last year’s squad.
“We’re up to 16 girls now, but we usually fluctuate between 15 and 25 girls, so this is a small team,” Dearstyne said. “But I’m getting to know them pretty well and we’re just looking to see how they handle actual competition in the meets.”
The Huskies are led this year by Sarah Hodes, who qualified for the state meet in the 500 free last season. Hodes is expected to continue swimming the freestyle events, but she is also a versatile swimmer who can also swim the butterfly events. Against John Jay, Dearstyne ran Hodes out in the 500 free, however, in order to give Harrison a shot for more points. With a time of 5:24.31, she edged John Jay’s top freestyler, Emma Housmann, by more than three seconds.
“I felt she was a good match-up with John Jay’s girl in the freestyle,” Dearstyne said. “She could have easily won the fly, but we would have been giving points away there.”
Sofia Major and Julia Ng, two other veterans, will be key to Harrison’s success going forward. The two girls–along with Hodes and Laura Byrd–were part of the 200 freestyle relay team that finished first with a time of 1:56.41. Dearstyne has also been pleasantly surprised with the performance of a newcomer, eighth-grader Divya Molakala, who earned a handful of third-place finishes against John Jay and impressed the head coach with her improvement during meet competition.
“She’s a new girl and when we put her in the meets, her stroke came together and her time improved,” Dearstyne said. “Those are the little things we looked for.”
Though his team is talented, Dearstyne is well aware that lack of numbers will prove to be an obstacle for the Huskies this year. In a tough league, Harrison will be at a disadvantage when they swim at large pools with more lanes–and more scoring opportunities for their opponents.
“If we show up to a six-lane pool with a diving board, we’re down seven points before the meet begins,” Dearstyne said. “But of course, we go into every meet looking to win.
“We just want everyone to keep improving their times,” he added. “We want to get faster each meet.”