Walking through the parking lot at the Lynch Literacy Academy on Tuesday night one could easily see which car belonged to Amsterdam High School girls swim team captain Justine Youngs. It was the one plastered with purple and gold colored paper streamers. The AHS varsity team honored the senior captain during their dual meet with Schenectady and Catholic Central, and in the process earned their first win of the season.
“She’s like a sister to me,” said AHS freshman Kayla Dzikowicz during an intermission in the meet to recognize Youngs. “And every memory of her is my favorite.”
Dzikowicz is one of three freshman on a young Lady Rams team led by Youngs, the only senior, that has competed against teams from the Foothills Council, Colonial Council and former Big 10 rivals this season. Young’s teammates each took turns addressing the crowd and sharing memories. Most were trying to hold back the tears.
“She’s the best team captain ever,” said Illiana Sanchez.
Youngs has been a constant presence poolside for the Lady Rams putting her youthful team through warm ups and making sure they are ready for every meet. Youngs led by example all season long and on Tuesday showed them how it’s done earning a first place finish in the 100 meter butterfly with a time of one minute and 15.88 seconds. Amsterdam eighth grader Juliana Busseno came in second with a 1:23.61 time. The Lady Rams were in a close contest with both the Lady Patriots and Lady Crusaders.
Only four points separated the three teams entering the final event. Amsterdam’s Busseno, freshman Abby McNamara and Paige Bertuch, and seventh grader Grace Patrei lined up for the 400 meter freestyle relay. Coach Nancy Spagnola informed Youngs on just how close the meet was. Youngs, as she has done all season, encouraged her team.
“She’s an integral part of this team,” said Amsterdam coach Nancy Spagnola of Youngs. “And as you can tell she is well loved.”
The Amsterdam 400 meter freestyle relay team finished with a time of 5:07.69. The reward was a 45-43 win over Catholic Central. Schenectady’s relay team finished first and won 53-47 over AHS. The dual meet was the closest AHS had been in this season.
“This feels really good,” said Coach Spagnola after the meet. “It was nice that they (CCHS) had a small team like us. The girls worked hard and it’s nice to repay the hard work with a win.”
The Amsterdam 200 medley relay team of Youngs, Bertuch, Dzikowicz, and eighth grader Lauren Santiago took second place with a time of 2:22.78. Dzikowicz earned second place in the 100 meter backstroke with a time of 1:17.62, and third in the 500 meter freestyle at 6:52.75.
AHS got third place finishes from McNamara in the 200 meter freestyle (2:49.63), Bertuch in the 200 meter individual medley (3:08.79), Lauren Santiago in the 100 meter freestyle (1:09.89), Busseno in the 100 meter backstroke (1:26.69), and the 200 meter freestyle relay team of Dzikowicz, Lauren Santiago, Patrei, and eighth grader MacKenzie Farina (2:11.88).
The Schenectady Lady Patriots earned top finishes from Abby Wrieden in the 200 meter freestyle, Alexis Santiago in the 100 meter freestyle, and Margaret Mitchell in the 50 meter freestyle and 500 meter freestyle. The Schenectady diving team of Ally Calhoun and Maddie Tripoli won the diving event with Calhoun taking first place.
The Catholic Central Lady Crusaders got first place finishes from Hayley Rosen, Shayla McCarroll, and Amelia Fallon. Other good finishes came from Zoe Evans, Sarah Herbold, Erin Mackey, Daysia Walton and Gabby Swider.
Justine Youngs will be one of five AHS swimmers competing at sectionals on November 6-7 at Shenendehowa High School. She will be joined by Busseno, Bertuch, Lauren Santiago, and Kayla Dzikowicz, who took credit for being one of four that decorated Youngs’ car. Berrtuch, Patrei, and Gemma Liverio were also in on giving Youngs yet another lasting memory.
“Being the only senior is like being their mother,” said Youngs, a five year member of varsity on her tenure as captain. “They are all so young, and they all have different personalities. Throughout the season you just get used to it.”
Youngs said that she hopes the team always remembers to listen, and when asked about we she hopes they will remember most about her leadership it was more than just being a team.
“It’s about having fun, and it’s like one happy family,” she said. “Family, that’s the most important thing.”
(Photos by Scott Mulford)