Amsterdam High School girls swimming coach Nancy Spagnola has been waiting for years to have a team large enough that the Lady Rams can be competitive in dual meets. Now, she's got exactly such a team, and perhaps the most exciting part for the Lady Rams is that they'll be sticking together for a while.
The Lady Rams were in a mood to celebrate following their first meet victory of the season Thursday -- a 97-73 triumph over Hudson Falls/South Glens Falls at Lynch Literacy Academy -- and with no seniors and just five juniors on their 17-swimmer roster, there's plenty of reason to believe that more celebrations will be on the way.
"This is the beginning of the time we've been working for," Spagnola said. "We don't think it's just one year, since we don't have any seniors on the team. These are girls that have been swimming with us since they were in the seventh grade. We have the depth, the enthusiasm, and even though they're involved in other things like band and majorettes, they're still really committed to the team."
Amsterdam only won five of the 11 races in Thursday's meet, but after years of being overwhelmed by the depth and numbers of other teams, it was the Lady Rams who were able to triumph thanks to a heavy dose of second, third and fourth-place finishes.
Lauren Santiago turned in the top individual performance for the Lady Rams, racing to victory in the 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke. Kayla Dzikowicz added a win in the 200-yard individual medley, Julianna Busseno won the 100-yard butterfly and the foursome of Dzikowicz, Busseno, Kelly Kilgallen and Anastacia Montalvo capped off the meet by winning the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Amsterdam filled out the win with depth. Montalvo had second-place finishes in the 100 butterfly and 50 freestyle, Dzikowicz was second in the 500 freestyle, Tessa Conti was second in the 100 free, Kilgallen was second in the 200 free and Paige Bertuch was second in the 100 breaststroke.
"We've had small teams in the past, but we finally have enough girls where we can be competitive with bigger teams," said Conti, one of the team's co-captains.
The Lady Rams also turned in several season-best times and had a number of swimmers post qualifying times for the Section II championships.
After waiting nearly a month into the season before finally racing in their home pool, Thursday's triumph was well worth the wait.
"We had a lot of good times today," said Bertuch, the team's other co-captain. "Everybody's hard work paid off in this meet."
There was so much energy flowing through the Lady Rams that, as they celebrated their victory, the party spilled right back into the pool -- including a trip in the water for Spagnola and assistant coach Marisha Gennett.
Considering the circumstances, they didn't seem to mind.
"It's very exciting, because it just seems like the team keeps growing," a soaking wet Spagnola said.
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Alex Cooper / Recorder staff Amsterdam's Olivia Brahler competes in the 200 yard individual medley during the swim match against South Glens Falls on Thursday, September 29, at Lynch Literacy Academy.