“They’re some of my favorite people,” freshman Jane Brierley said. “It’s sad to see them leave.”
Brierley was talking about the three seniors in her 200-yard medley and freestyle relays that competed upstate this past weekend — Julia Brierley, Darcy McFarland, and Sophia Swanson, who’ve been fixtures on the East Hampton High School swim team since they were eighth-graders.
“I love how much of a team we are. We all love each other,” she said.
“As a team we’re really close, so we had a talk about how well we wanted to do and how we wanted to make states,” Swanson said. “It’s been pushing us since the first day we got in the pool. We all worked really hard.”
In the 200 medley relay the Bonackers finished 27th in 1 minute, 51.77 seconds at Ithaca College November 23, and the 200 freestyle 38th in 1:42.16. The quartet were part of an elite handful of athletes chosen from more than 7000 female varsity swimmers in the state who qualified.
“I’m so happy with how we did. Most of us don’t care about who wins or loses we just want to do our best,” Brierley said. “I think it gets more exciting as the years go on, and I think we all deserve this.”
For McFarland, she’s always called getting in the pool her getaway.
“It’s the escapism from every part of my life,” she said. “I’m getting ready for college, submitting applications, so this is like my break; my moment of Zen.”
Speaking of college Swanson is choosing between several Division I schools, but has yet to make up her mind on where.
“I’m indecisive,” she said, laughing, but knows regardless she’ll be prepared. “This team has become a family to me, and it definitely pushed me and opened by eyes to a bunch of different things. It helped me with training and being a better teammate.”
The three seniors have also competed as members of the YMCA East Hampton RECenter’s competitive club team, the Hurricanes, since they were little girls. Swanson, who finished the 100 butterfly 41st in 59.31 and 45th in the 100 freestyle in 54.47 swimming on short rest, started her journey through the water as a beach lifeguard. She grew competitive to beat her older sister Isabella.
“I was really scared to go in the water at first,” she said, laughing. “Because of the area we live in, everyone swims here — everyone loves to swim. I guess I fell in love with it, too.”
Julia Brierley, who is the daughter of head coach Craig Brierley, had the hope of beating her older brothers.
“As the youngest, I wanted to prove myself,” she said, smiling. “I love the sport.”
Her father said it’s been incredible for him to watch the girls grow.
“Their season of hard work, commitment, and dedication to the team was evident as they competed along with the best in New York State,” he said. “It was so inspiring to watch this year’s group of student-athletes compete with heart and give all they had in every race throughout the season. Our girls represented their schools with respect and dignity with so many wonderful accomplishments and personal growth both in and out of the pool. And our alumni will be happy to know that the 2019 Bonac girls left the team in a better place than when they got here.”
As a captain this season, his daughter said tried her best to set a good example.
“I know they respected me,” said Brierley, who will be competing for Division III’s SUNY Geneseo next season. “But they also wanted to be my friend. Some girls were scared, but we’d rally around each other with words of encouragement,” Brierley added. “Positive reinforcement like, ‘You’re doing great.’ ‘You won’t fail.’ ‘You’ve got this.’ I think everyone played a part in that.”
Jane Brierley, who finished 34th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:08.85, said the seniors have set up the Bonacker team for success.
“We have what it takes, but we’re going to have to step it up,” she said. “Them leaving will be more motivation to do better.”
“A bunch of new girls came in this season,” Brierley said. “They will be back next, so we’re continuing to grow.”
She added it’s nice ending the season on a high note with the girls she’s grown up with.
“I’ve learned a lot about what I can do and mentally what I’m capable of,” Brierley said. “I had low point a couple years ago, and it was hard to get through, but I’m so happy I did. I’ve learned so much.”