Natick High’s Swimmers, Divers Making A Big Splash

Ken Hamwey, Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
March, 2019
Article Body: 

The Natick High boys swimming and diving team is starting to get the attention it deserves.
If letter grades were to be assigned to coach Caitlyn Shaddock’s squad, they would be straight A’s and the A would be for achievement. Consider what the Redhawks have accomplished for the 2018-19 season — they finished undefeated in dual meets (13-0), landed on top of the Bay State Conference standings, defeated Needham by 56 points to win the league meet, and finished second in the Division 1 Sectional championship.
Those accomplishments are no fluke and truly demonstrate consistency. Last year, Natick compiled a 12-0 dual-meet record, was No. 1 in the conference standings and also won the BSC meet. The Sectional tourney concluded with the Redhawks in second place, losing to Needham in the final race.
“I’m extremely proud of the program’s growth,’’ said Shaddock as she and her forces were preparing for the State tourney, which got underway after Local Town Pages deadline. “I’m humbled by our two consecutive unbeaten seasons (25 straight wins) and hope our success and growth will continue as we go forward.’’
The team’s goals at the start of this season were to improve daily, go unbeaten and win the Sectionals. The Redhawks made good on their first two objectives but fell short in the Sectional, bowing to Nantucket, 228-213. Shaddock, however, was upbeat the way her squad competed. “The boys were phenomenal,’’ Shaddock said. “Two school records were set and they gave a maximum effort. I couldn’t have asked for more.’’
Natick’s coach is proud of the attributes that define her team. “Determination, excellent team chemistry and sportsmanship define the squad,’’ said Shaddock, who’s in her fifth year at the helm. “The prime strengths our kids have are a high swimming and diving IQ, a strong work ethic, they’re athletic, technically sound, and they’re dedicated.’’
Natick’s trio of senior captains, who “lead by example and communicate effectively,’’ include Kyle Burati (diving), Jake O’Shea (freestyle), and Joe Spurling (backstroke and 500 freestyle).
“Kyle has a good work ethic, is coachable and technically sound,’’ Shaddock said. “He’s willing to take risks and face challenges. Jake is a high endurance swimmer who’s versatile. He’s very dedicated to the team, ensuring that everyone works hard. Joe is resilient, his endurance is strong and he also is versatile.’’
Four juniors who’ve been quality contributors are Ben Schmelmer (freestyle), Max Weisman (diving), Joey Holihan (butterfly and backstroke), and Matthew Kwan (breaststroke).
“A conference all-star last year, Ben has a high swim IQ,’’ Shaddock said. “He’s also fundamentally sound, dependable and hard-working. Max is confident, technically sound, passionate about diving, and coachable. Joey is competitive, resilient and determined while Matthew is dedicated, hard-working and supportive.’’
Top-notch sophomores include Antonio Arena (freestyle and backstroke), Jiro Batt (breaststroke and butterfly), Brian Cheung (freestyle) and his twin brother Allen (freestyle).
“Antonio is a jack of all trades,’’ Shaddock said. “He’s available for a variety of events. He’s an analytical swimmer and has great speed. Jiro was a league all-star last year. He’s determined and his work ethic is excellent. He’s fundamentally sound, especially when competing in the individual medley. Brian is dedicated, driven and fast while Allen is determined and very competitive.’’
Three freshmen with solid credentials are Blake Horsch (freestyle), Zach Bubonovich (individual medley and breaststroke) and Logan Knapp (diving). “Blake is very competitive,’’ Shaddock noted. “Zach is coachable, determined and team-oriented while Logan has lots of potential and is very coachable.’’
Shaddock, who was a four-year varsity swimmer at Milford High and also a captain, focuses on a competitive philosophy that stresses reaching one’s potential and enjoying an athletic experience. “If our kids are improving, reaching their potential and having fun in the process, then winning likely will follow,’’ she emphasized.
A physics and astronomy teacher at Natick High, Shaddock doesn’t have to gaze at the stars to discover that the 34 boys on her roster learn valuable life lessons while practicing and competing as swimmers and divers.
“There’s no doubt that the sport teaches perseverance, mental toughness, teamwork, how to be a leader and how to develop a strong work ethic,’’ she said. “And, those who compete on a swimming and diving team understand that the sport has an individual and a team aspect. The boys swim and dive to win as individuals and to also compile points for their team. Individual success builds confidence and it also helps a squad win.’’
Last year, Natick had a dynamic run, led by 10 seniors. This season, competing without those graduates, the Redhawks enjoyed even more success. Swimming and diving are emerging and they’re definitely on the upswing at Natick.
“I like that we’re now viewed as an established program and our future can be very bright,’’ Shaddock said.
“If the future is anything like the past two years for Natick High’s swimmers and divers, then they might have to deal with talk of a dynasty.