The RHS Bulldogs' Swim Team
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo Credits: Deb Jimenez
On February 5th, the RHS Bulldogs Swim Team competed in the NJIC Championship Meet. The Boys’ team took home its first meet title since 2018 finishing first in seven out of eleven events. The Girls’ team also did extremely well during the Championship and took second place at the meet. This is Rutherford had the opportunity to interview the RHS Bulldogs Swim coach, Steve Dunn, and some of the members of the team.
Coach Steve Dunn is very proud of his swim team and their individual and team accomplishments this season. He was excited to share more about the team, their hard work, and their achievements with This is Rutherford.
TIR: How often does the swim team practice?
Steve Dunn: We practice every day (Monday- Saturday)
TIR: How does your team prepare for a Championship meet such as the NJIC Championship?
SD: We taper down the meters we swim about a week before the championship meet and work on more fundamentals and specifics for each race.
TIR: To what do you attribute your team’s success?
SD: Our success is because of the culture to put the team first. Our seniors have established a work ethic that is infectious to all of the underclassmen. Leadership and hard work are the two things we take pride in.
TIR: Are the swimmers preparing for other tournaments?
SD: Our girls' season is complete. Our boys will be competing in the state tournament. If we win we will play against Madison in the state quarterfinals. If we win that we will go up against the #1 seed Governor Livingston. Also, our boys' relays have qualified for the individual state championships the first weekend of March. Andrew Kidchob has qualified for the individual state championships in two individual events.
After working hard all season, the RHS Bulldog Swim team has won six meet titles and surpassed the Leonia/ Palisades Park swim team taking the all-time boys swimming lead. Many of RHS’ Bulldog swimmers have done extremely well throughout the season. Gabi Jimenez, Nevo Ein-Dor Truong, Caroline Gemelli, Greg Farnum, and Samuel Lorenc are some of those standout athletes who responded to the following interview questions.
TIR: How do you prepare for championship meets, such as the NJIC Championship meet?
Gabi Jimenez: Whenever I compete in meets as important as the NJIC Championships I always want to go into it with a positive attitude. I listen to music that gets me focused on my task and I talk with friends in order to calm my nerves. When it comes to meets like this, swimming is always an individual sport, no matter how many races your team wins. So, when the time comes for me to swim in a meet like the NJIC Championship, I know I have to swim for myself and try and achieve my best time. I am not the best swimmer in the pool, I know there will be better and faster swimmers, but I also know that I can only ever try and do the best I can. That is usually what is running through my head when I am at a swim meet and it is usually the thought that helps me get through them. Once the swim meet begins, it's great to get caught up in the excitement of rooting on your teammates. Our team spirit and support for each other really help keep our focus.
Nevo Ein-Dor Truong: To prepare for the meet, I make sure my mind is clear. That means no video games or anything super distracting before I go to bed. When I wake up, I make sure to get a nice breakfast, bring some snacks, and think positively.
Caroline Gemelli: Being both a part of the Rutherford High School swim team and the Rebels Aquatic Club swim team outside of school, I made sure to keep in mind what events I needed to succeed in during the NJIC meet during both practices so I could make sure I could work on anything I needed to improve on technique-wise, or endurance wise. Getting a good night's rest, and eating a good breakfast the morning of the NJIC meet were also essential to my routine.
Greg Farnum: To prepare for the NJIC championship or any other championship meet, I make sure my body and mind are in the best shape that they can be. I also make sure I am training to the best of my ability in and out of the pool leading up to a championship meet or any meet in general.
Samuel Lorenc: I prepare for my championship meets by making sure my body and mind are at their best. I always picture my performance in practice and work towards my goals there. It's important I give my best in training so I can trust in my training during my race. This really motivates me to push toward faster times. I'm always trying to one-up who I was yesterday in terms of speed, body, and mind. The race is where I can focus all my efforts and trainings into the result
TIR: What do you enjoy most about being a part of the swim team?
Gabi: The community aspect of the Rutherford swim team is what I love most about this team. The RHS swim team is almost like one big family, which makes every practice and meet fun. Especially this year, the swim team is closer than ever and we have an absolute blast when we are in the pool and out of it. It makes me especially proud when other teams come up to us and tell us how nice our team is and whenever someone says that, I feel proud to swim for a team as close as ours.
Nevo: The thing that I enjoy the most about being part of the swim team is the memories that you make. I will always remember taking my team as far as I can possibly go, laughing, and enjoying the time that we have along the way. Especially now that I’m a senior, it’s my job to set the tone straight with our future swimmers.
Caroline: My favorite part overall about being a part of the Rutherford High School swim team is the strong bond the entire team has. If you come to any swim meet, it's obvious that every single person on the team cares about each other, and we are all always cheering each other on. Even my friends who have recently joined the Rutherford High team talk about how they appreciate the encouragement from their fellow teammates regardless of the outcome of their race. The friendships that I have created on this team are some of my strongest, and I am grateful that I have met so many of my closest friends through this sport.
Greg: There are many things that I enjoy about swimming, especially the team aspect of it, but the thing I enjoy the most is training with my teammates and getting better. I also enjoy spending time with my teammates outside of the pool and befriending them!
Samuel: The best part about the team is the fun and laughs we make on the high school team.
TIR: How long have you been swimming?
Gabi: I have been swimming competitively for eight years and swam with the RHS swim team all four years.
Nevo: I’ve been swimming on JFAC (Jersey Flyers Aquatics Club) for 9 years now. All of this experience has taught me what hard work really is, and knowing that I am one of the core reasons why our team is at the top of the league holds so much meaning and a sense of responsibility and accomplishment for me.
Caroline: I started swimming on a summer swim team when I was 10 years old, and I began swimming competitively when I was 11 years old in 6th grade, and I have been swimming on a team ever since. I started swimming on the Rutherford High School swim team when I was 14, a freshman.
Greg: I have been swimming for almost nine years now and I have enjoyed every second of it. I’ve had my ups and downs but I have devoted myself to this sport and I am so grateful that I am continuing to progress in the sport of swimming. Swimming has also helped me become more self-motivated and disciplined to be the best person that I can be out of the pool.
Samuel: I've been swimming all my life for small fun summer leagues from the age of 3 to 9. Here I developed my love and potential for the sport. I joined a club team at 10. Coach Chris Hwang moved me up the ladder to where I am now. I learned and grew through my ups and downs through him. Coach Chris Hwang and Nicole DeCaro of Bergen Barracudas, teammates, friends, and family have all my respect for helping me to get where I am.
Mr. Frank Morano, RHS Principal, told TIR, "We are lucky to have Coach Dunn be able to impact so many student-athletes at RHS. His success on the football field and in the pool has been outstanding. Leading the boys to an NJIC championship and a second-place finish for the girls is outstanding. Our swim team is always in the top of the conference year in and year out because of the dedication of our swimmers."
TIR: To what do you attribute your success as a swimmer?
Gabi: I really don't think that I could have gone this far as a swimmer without my family. I have had great coaches over my swim career, but they could never compare to the absolute support my family gave me. They dedicated hours out of their lives to drive me back and forth from practice every night and far away swim meets. Without them, I can say with one hundred percent confidence that I probably would have given up on swimming within the first few years. It is a demanding sport both physically and mentally, but my parents always saw the strongest in me and pushed me to go forward. I owe every success to them and I really appreciate their sacrifices.
Nevo: For me, one of the attributes that I have is to always aim high. Don’t set the bar too low. Even though the accomplishment may seem beyond your imagination, even if everyone thinks you’re all talk, if you just focus all of your focus on something that you’re 100% passionate about, I’m sure that people really can do anything. Another thing is hard work. Nothing in life comes easy. Some things come easier than others for sure, but if you aren’t willing to put your heart on the line, then why are you doing this?
Caroline: I like to attribute my success as a swimmer to the list of exceptional coaches that have helped me on my swimming journey. I've had about 5-6 coaches throughout my swimming career and I can confidently say that they all cared about every single one of their swimmers and their success. I think that I can also attribute my success to my love for this sport. I love the way this sport pushes me physically and mentally to do my best, it has really positively affected my mental and physical health throughout my life and continues to do so.
"Caroline Gemelli is a very hard-working individual, she is a great mentor to the younger kids, and is one of the swim instructors. We are excited to see what Caroline can accomplish in her Senior year," Rebels Swim Coach Mike Lazzara told TIR.
Greg: Success as a swimmer comes in many different ways and it comes at various times. I devote my success as a swimmer to all of the coaches that I have had throughout the years who have truly helped me grow as a swimmer and person as well. All of my coaches have pushed me in and out of the pool and that has helped me become the swimmer which I am today!
Samuel: The competitive aspect of the sport, the wins and losses and my goal of swimming division one in college and God is all pushing me to keep going forward.
Athletic Director, Mr. David Frazier, explained "Under Coach Dunn, the team has continued to flourish and do well. It is no surprise that they competed as strongly as they did during the season and in the NJIC Championships! It's a credit to the work our staff and our athletes have put in!!!"