Bonac Swimmers Had Season-Best Showing at County Championships - 27 East

Bonac Swimmers Had Season-Best Showing at County Championships

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Pierson's Nicky Badilla competing at the county championships on Saturday.  MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson's Nicky Badilla competing at the county championships on Saturday. MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson’s Nick Chavez in the 200-yard IM. 
 MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson’s Nick Chavez in the 200-yard IM. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton junior Rock Hamada comes up for air.  MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton junior Rock Hamada comes up for air. MARIANNE BARNETT

A Bonacker dives into the pool at the start of a race.  MARIANNE BARNETT

A Bonacker dives into the pool at the start of a race. MARIANNE BARNETT

A Bonacker dives into the pool at the start of a race.  MARIANNE BARNETT

A Bonacker dives into the pool at the start of a race. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton senior Luke Tarbet is all smiles in what was his final high school swim meet on Saturday.   MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton senior Luke Tarbet is all smiles in what was his final high school swim meet on Saturday. MARIANNE BARNETT

A Bonacker dives into the pool at the start of a race.  MARIANNE BARNETT

A Bonacker dives into the pool at the start of a race. MARIANNE BARNETT

A Bonacker dives into the pool at the start of a race.  MARIANNE BARNETT

A Bonacker dives into the pool at the start of a race. MARIANNE BARNETT

A Bonacker dives into the pool at the start of a race.  MARIANNE BARNETT

A Bonacker dives into the pool at the start of a race. MARIANNE BARNETT

Daniel Rossano, left, Ares Jenkins and Abe Stillman get a game of chess amid all the action on Saturday.  MARIANNE BARNETT

Daniel Rossano, left, Ares Jenkins and Abe Stillman get a game of chess amid all the action on Saturday. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton head coach Craig Brierley talks to one of his swimmers.  MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton head coach Craig Brierley talks to one of his swimmers. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton's Luke Tarbet  MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton's Luke Tarbet MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton senior Tenzin Tamang. 
 MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton senior Tenzin Tamang. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton's Luke Tarbet   MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton's Luke Tarbet MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton senior Tenzin Tamang. 
 MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton senior Tenzin Tamang. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton's Liam Knight gets set to compete in the backstroke.  MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton's Liam Knight gets set to compete in the backstroke. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton's Liam Knight doing the backstroke.   MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton's Liam Knight doing the backstroke. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton's Liam Knight doing the backstroke.  MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton's Liam Knight doing the backstroke. MARIANNE BARNETT

Desirée Keegan on Feb 14, 2023

Tenzin Tamang said he wouldn’t want to end his high school career any other way. The East Hampton senior capped off over a decade as a Bonacker swimmer with the Suffolk County championship meet this weekend, and did so with some of his best friends by his side.

“Every year, I look forward to this meet simply because of the energy that is generated in that small pool. It was nice to have such a lively audience,” he said. “It was fun, and marked the end of a swim legacy that Nicky Badilla, Luke Tarbet and I started 11 years ago. I am very grateful for having them as my teammates throughout the years, and to be able to compete with my boys one last time before the end of my high school swim career. It meant a lot to me.”

He said it was also special to see his fellow swimmers set new standards.

During the meet at Stony Brook University on February 11, multiple Bonackers broke their personal bests set at the League II Championships just a week prior, which helped the team, comprising athletes from Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Sag Harbor, finish eighth out of 24 schools.

Tamang saw the greatest individual success, placing sixth in the 100-yard butterfly with a personal best time of 54.12 seconds, though he missed the state cut by 0.15 seconds.

“I was disappointed, but at the same time, I dropped over half a second, so I really couldn’t complain,” Tamang said. “Overall, I was happy with the outcome.”

His classmates, Badilla and Tarbet, also had a strong showing on the day, and completed the butterfly race in personal best times of 55.49 and 57.24, for 10th and 14th place, respectively. The three are also area lifeguards, and have competed alongside each other for as long as they can remember.

“We’ve grown really close, so it was the best way to go out,” Badilla said.

“We push each other in practice and help each other during meets, and without the two of them, I doubt I would be where I am today,” Tamang added.

Tarbet said he couldn’t believe the time he’d achieved.

“Looking at that time on the scoreboard, I was dumbfounded, and so excited,” the senior said. “I dropped 2.2 seconds — that’s huge, and I was really proud to end off on such a high note.”

He, Badilla and Tamang, along with freshman Liam Knight, closed out the meet with a fourth-place finish in the final event, the 400 freestyle. They ended the race in a season-best 3 minutes, 29.60 seconds, and each swimmer grabbed a personal record to help earn that spot.

“It could be symbolic of us passing the torch to him and the younger swimmers in our community,” Badilla said. “I think the team has a strong future, and head coach Craig Brierley’s style of ultra-short race-pace training not only worked for me, personally, it’s working for the younger swimmers, as well.”

Tamang said he almost didn’t compete in the event, but was happy he did.

“I was experiencing cramps in my chest and for a moment I was thinking of subbing someone in,” he said. “Luckily, a little warmup did the trick and I was ready to go 10 minutes later.”

The 200 medley relay group of Badilla, Tamang, Knight and junior Rock Hamada swam a 1:47.07 for sixth place, and the 200 free relay quartet of Badilla, Tamang, Tarbet and junior Emmet McCormac went a season best 1:34.75 to earn seventh place. Three of the four swimmers in the medley relay also recorded personal best times.

“The boys were very focused and motivated to do their best, and the coaches were thrilled with the efforts the boys put in for each of their races,” Brierley said. “They showed all the skills and characteristics they have been developing over the course of the season, and over the years, with a fantastic display of what makes our team so special each year. We want the boys to look into a mirror and say, ‘I did that!’ and recognize this is something we should all be proud of.”

Eighth-grader Nicky Chavez finished 14th in the 200 individual medley after touching the wall in 2:18.04. Rounding out the individual side of competition was Knight racing to 12th in the 100 backstroke, finishing in a personal best time of 57.23, and 16th in the 100 freestyle, with another personal best time of 51.70.

“I had a great time — this meet holds a lot of sentimental value,” Badilla said. “I wanted to give it my all in every event I competed in, and wanted to see if I could put up some best times while contributing to my team, and I ended up doing that. It was a special experience.”

All nine of the Bonackers swimmers earned points for the East Hampton team, which accumulated 112 points for the eighth-place overall finish. Smithtown-Hauppauge won the meet with 327.5 points.

“I was very proud of how all of our teammates performed,” Tamang said. “Everyone put their all into this meet, and as a result, we were able to reach new heights not just as a team, but on an individual level, too.”

These student-athletes are part of a team that finished fourth in League II with a 5-4 overall record. After the league championships, the coach said his boys quickly went back to work to enhance their techniques, speed and endurance — something he’s proud of them for doing.

“There were multiple best times because of this — an impressive feat given that there were so many best times last week,” Brierley said. “As our season comes to a close, the coaches want to thank all of the student-athletes that chose to be a part of our family this year. Thank you to our captains, Daniel Rossano and Luke Tarbet, and the rest of our seniors — Nicky Badilla, Ottavio Petrocino and Tenzin Tamang — who showed positive, respectful and encouraging leadership that the team benefited greatly from.”

As a captain, Tarbet said he felt a huge responsibility, and relished in passing the baton this season.

“Leading the team through the season allowed me to pass on the traditions that I learned throughout the years,” he said. “Showing the younger members of the team what it means to compete at counties was a highlight for me. Showing up every day to lead my team felt more important, and was rewarding on another level.”

Badilla said he and his teammates have learned a lot from their coach, too.

“Coach Craig’s way of training focuses on the mind as well as the body, and that’s helped me outside of the pool in developing as a person,” he said. “You go into this meeting all of these new people, and you come out like brothers. We’ve become a close, tight-knit group that has grown not only athletically, but mindfully, with a focus on gratitude and positive energy Coach Craig has taught us to harness.”

As is tradition with the Bonackers team, captains Rossano and Tarbet chose a swimmer of the meet, calling out Badilla for his ongoing improvements. The Pierson senior scored 23 individual points and was part of two relays that tacked on an additional 48 points for East Hampton during the league meet. He contributed 87 total points — seven individual — for the Bonackers during the Suffolk County meet.

“He stepped up big for his team,” Brierley said. “Dropping best times in consecutive weeks is an extremely difficult task, and Nicky showed his true grit and competitiveness that has made him one of the team’s biggest contributors each year he has been here.”

Tamang said representing his school and being a Bonacker holds a lot of weight.

“It’s been tough, but it’s been rewarding at the same time,” the senior said. “I will always have the competitive spirit that this swim team has given me.”

His teammate and friend agreed.

“The swim team has given to me more than I’ve given to it,” Badilla said, “and for that, I’m really grateful.”

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