MHS swimmers poised for another great year

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Ally Silvestri and Middleton's girls swimming team are gunning for a third straight state title this fall./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

They will do everything possible not to look ahead. Not to focus on tomorrow before they’ve conquered today.

That’s because Middleton’s girls swimming and diving team knows that staying in the here and now will take them exactly where they want to go come November.

The Cardinals have won back-to-back WIAA Division 1 state championships — the first titles in school history. With the overwhelming majority of state contributors returning in 2018, Middleton will be the favorite to make it a three-peat this season.

But Middleton coach Lauren Cabalka and her Cardinals fully intend to enjoy every stroke of the journey. So while everyone else may already be putting a third gold ball in Middleton’s trophy case, Cabalka isn’t one of them.

“We absolutely have some incredible talent on our team, as well as some hidden gems waiting to emerge,” Cabalka said. “That's what makes this such an exciting year. We have never been a team who focuses on the postseason before the season has even begun and we're not going to start now. 

“We will take it one day at a time and focus on the goals we set for each week, which will hopefully allow us to continue to swim our fastest races at the end of the season. That is our true sign of success and a result we will be proud of in the end.  At the end of the day, we can only control what we can control — not what anyone else does or the talent that any other team has.”

Make no mistake about it, though, these Cardinals have talent up and down the pool. Middleton brings back six individuals that were key cogs on last year’s state title team and has several others ready to make their mark.

Junior Gabriela Pierobon Mays won her second straight state championship in the 100-yard butterfly last November. Pierobon Mays also was a member of Middleton’s state championship 200-medley relay team and finished third at state in the 100-yard butterfly.

Pierobon Mays is returning from an injury. But Cabalka said she’s back to full strength and ready for a terrific year.

“Gabby is coming off of a significant injury, but is back with a vengeance,” Cabalka said. “I have never known a more determined athlete in all of my years of coaching. 

“She has raw talent and an incredible feel for the water and I am confident she will not only come back, but it will be stronger than ever before. I can tell you this, I wouldn't want to be in a race next to her!”

Senior Hannah Aegerter was part of Middleton’s state championship 200-yard freestyle relay team and finished fourth in the 200 freestyle. Aegerter also competes in the 200 IM and the 500 freestyle.

“Hannah returns as our top distance swimmer from last year and is someone who is incredibly versatile,” Cabalka said. “We can put Hannah in just about any event, which makes her highly valuable to our dual meet lineup. Hannah trains with an intense purpose every day and pushes those around her to be better. I think we have yet to see everything this young woman can do.”

Senior Cora Mack finished sixth at state in the 50-yard freestyle and sixth in the 100-yard freestyle. Mack was also part of Middleton’s state championship 200-yard freestyle relay team. 

“Cora is our sprint specialist,” Cabalka said. “If we lack in an area, this is it, but Cora makes sure that we are still well represented at invites and at the state level. 

“Aside from incredible talent, Cora brings a playful energy to our team and keeps the mood light. Every team needs that. One thing I know to be true about Cora is don't ever count her out.”

Senior Emily Keebler was sixth at state in the 200 individual medley and also competes in the 100-yard backstroke.

“Emily had a breakout season last year,” Cabalka said. “We always knew she had it in her, but she finally believed it and unleashed her talent throughout the season. 

“Emily is another swimmer who we can put in just about any event and know that she will deliver. I have never seen a swimmer handle herself with so much composure and grace as this young woman did last year and we are so excited to see what she can do this year.”

Junior Alex Anagnostopoulos finished fifth in the 100 breaststroke at state and also swims the 200 IM.

“Alex is one of the hardest working, most determined swimmers I have ever coached,” Cabalka said. “She is constantly reflecting on how she can improve and working hard to get better. 

“Watching Alex swim is some of the most fun you will ever have at a swim meet. She makes each race exciting and never gives up on a race. I have a feeling this will be a breakout season for her.”

Sophomore Ally Silvestri finished third in the 100-yard breaststroke at state and was a member of Middleton’s state championship 200-yard medley relay team.

“Ally was a highly anticipated freshman last year, with a lot of hype to live up to,” Cabalka said. “She more than delivered and has been an absolute dream to coach. 

“One of the biggest compliments I can give a swimmer is telling them how coachable she is. This girl has big goals for herself and a boatload of talent to back them up, but she allows coaches to coach her and brings an incredible attitude every single day. Combine all of that and you've got quite the force to be reckoned with.”

In addition to Middleton’s gifted returnees, it expects to receive immediate contributions from freshmen Amanda George (distance freestyle), Molly Haag (distance freestyle, butterfly) and Ella Needham (freestyle, backstroke).

“We love this freshman class and are excited to see what they bring to the table,” Cabalka said. “They were impressive, to say the least, throughout our tryout week and showed the toughness and poise you would expect from juniors and seniors. They are versatile and will help us to fill the gaps we have in our lineup.”

Cabalka knows, though, there aren’t many gaps. And in many places, complacency could rear its ugly head.

But Cabalka — a former MHS standout who has taken the program to unprecedented heights — makes sure that self-satisfaction stays out of her pool. Instead, Middleton knows that its success from the last two years hasn’t earned it any points in 2018.

And that attitude could lead to terrific results again this season.

“From day one, we've operated under the ‘back to business as usual’ mindset,” Cabalka said. “2016 and 2017 were special years, no doubt, but they are in the past. We need to stay grounded as a team and have a solid understanding of who we are from the very start, so we do not get ahead of ourselves or allow outside pressure to weigh us down. 

“While we are constantly evolving and learning, we also don't try to fix something that isn't broken. We have had a lot of success over the years because we do not try to over-complicate the process. Instead, we ask the girls to trust us and to trust the process and to come in every day with a growth mindset and a desire to get better.”


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