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Friends in and out of the pool

Many times this year I have shared news articles about other teams, other swimmers, or just the sport of swimming in general.  However, this article is something very special.  It centers around 4 female platinum swimmers who recently competed in the NJ HS Meet of Champions.  We have talked a lot this year in the platinum group about "being a family" and how important our teammates are to our success - even though swimming is mostly an "indivdual" sport.  I don't know if I could be any prouder or touched reading the words of these outstanding athletes and teammates.  They are truly a representation of everything that I have preached all season long and of what it means to really be a "team"

So proud of you ladies !!!!    

Article was originally published in the Burlington County Times

Written by: Nick Italiano

During the high school season and most recently at the NJSIAA Individual Championships, they may have been perceived as rivals.

But for a group of county swimmers — including Emily Werth (Cherokee), Taylor Worrell (Rancocas Valley), Julianna Foss (Shawnee) and Carter Orth (Moorestown) — that event couldn’t diminish the allegiance to their teammates from the South Jersey Aquatic Club.

“Going into one of these meets like last Sunday (at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology), I don’t see them as competitors from different schools, I see them as my family,” said Werth, a senior. “I want them to do well, just as they want to see me do well. It’s a whole different perspective that other people may not understand.”

Maybe not. But perhaps it becomes easier to appreciate after realizing the time and commitment required to reach their plateaus.

SJAC members practice from 2½ to three hours, five or six days a week, 11 months out of the year. Although swimmers are theoretically off for vacation in August, the pool at the YMCA of Burlington-Camden County in Mount Laurel is open seven days a week.

Inevitably, with that level of interaction, combined with the intensity of their workouts, bonds are formed — regardless of whether you have been a member for years or just came on board.

“I switched to SJAC last year after all the girls from my old club team graduated,” said Worrell, a senior. “So if I didn’t have my friends from SJAC, I know I’d be nervous because I didn’t know who I would sit with. Basically I would be alone.”

“The whole point is that we’re all family and we all love each other,” Werth said. “Even if there are the down days, we’re always going to come back together, like the family we always are.”

Plus there’s another twist — they compete against each other all the time. Like the dynamic between Foss and Orth, who finished a respective second and fifth Sunday in the butterfly.

“I love (Orth),” said Foss, a senior. “We’ve been friends since 8-and-unders in summer swimming. It feels like we’ve known each other forever.

“At practice, literally, she just kills it. I wish I could be like her at practice. She has a great work ethic. I always used to be terrified to swim her and I’m still scared. You never know what to expect with her because she’s such a great swimmer.”

“We’re very close. Julianna and I practice three hours every single day together,” said Orth, a junior. “She never lets up, she’s a great swimmer, she loves to win, she loves to compete."

It appears the relationships throughout SJAC could only be comparable to sibling rivalries.

When you include fellow SJAC members Melissa Mullin (Holy Cross senior), Morgan Sage (Chreokee junior), Melissa Manuelli (Shawnee junior) and Renee Russo (Shawnee junior), coach Adam Ritchie certainly has reasons to be proud. About 20 of them. That’s the number of medals the SJAC girls amassed at the Meet of Champions.

But there’s little time to celebrate. This weekend the club must travel to Red Bank for the YMCA state championships.

The YMCA Nationals will be held April 1-4 in Greensboro, N.C., which conflicts with a few senior trips.

“My senior trip is the week before nationals and I have a chance to swim at 'A' finals,” Foss said. “So I’m skipping it and going with friends over spring break.”

It’s no surprise she’ll be traveling with Werth, Mullin and Marta Lawler (Cherry Hill East) to Disney World.

Foss, Werth and Worrell shared positive reflections on their high school careers.

“Swimming for Cherokee is more of a team sport,” said Werth, who's headed to UNC-Asheville after helping the Chiefs win a South Jersey Public A title last month.

“You’re representing your school. I’m a captain and a role model. I enjoyed that responsibility.”

Bucknell-bound Foss said, “For me it’s really sad because I really loved getting into high school swimming at Shawnee. I've had so many different motivations: all these meets, going after records and trying to do my best.”

“It was really enjoyable and I’m going to miss it a lot,” said Worrell, who is headed to South Carolina. “It’s really been a lot of fun and high school swimming is all about fun.”

And thanks to social media, they’ll stay in contact and have the opportunity to chart one another’s college careers.

“Honestly, these girls are probably some of the best friends I’ll ever have,” Foss said. “We’re teammates — forever.”