It started when they first began to swim as part of the Amsterdam Sea Rams swim club several years ago, learning all the strokes, improving their times, and making plenty of lasting friendships along the way. For Paige Bertuch, Tessa Conti, and Olivia Brahler, it all came full circle Thursday night, as the Amsterdam girls varsity swim team’s three seniors swam in their final home meet at the Lynch Literacy Academy pool.
Family and friends gathered poolside midway through the meet to recognize the accomplishments of the senior trio. There were framed posters of the three on the wall behind the starting blocks, and the usual balloons and flowers. Teammates also had something to say to each of the seniors.
Two of the youngest members of the Amsterdam varsity team, Anastacia Montalvo and Azia Aldi expressed that Brahler was more like a big sister to them, than just a teammate. Bella Porter let Conti know how much she appreciated her smile and positive attitude, especially when times were tough. And, Kelly Kilgallen acknowledged how much Bertuch has helped her, and how much the team captain has always pushed them to be at their best. Bertuch has been captain since 2014 taking over for Justine Youngs, the Lady Rams lone senior from that year. Bertuch and Conti are team captains for this year.
“They’ve been with the team since seventh grade,” Amsterdam coach Nancy Spagnola said. “It will be so sad next year without them. They’ve grown up with us over the past six years.”
“They’re like family,” Amsterdam coach Marisha Gennett added. “They have been here since the beginning. We look back at school pictures and see how much they’ve grown and matured.”
The parents of the seniors were close by from the start of the meet. They were holding stop watches and keeping times for both teams because the big scoreboard at the Lynch pool hasn’t worked since the start of the season. The seniors also got plenty of support from their fellow classmates as members of the Amsterdam Lady Rams soccer, cross country, and basketball teams were there to cheer for them. All three seniors are part of the school’s marching band and majorettes and had an extended family of friends there for their final home meet.
“I’m going to miss the girls, and the team senior captain,” Tessa Conti said when asked what she will miss about being a part of the AHS swim program. “I’m going to miss them so much.”
“A lot of teams bond over wins,” captain Paige Bertuch said, “But, we have a really good bond with this team. We’re all friends.”
“I’ve been with the team since the eighth grade,” Brahler said. “We’ve bonded more as family than as a team.”
The excitement didn’t end with the senior’s celebration. Entering Thursday’s meet, seven Lady Rams had qualified for sectionals. In the 100 yard butterfly, with her teammates screaming at both ends of the pool, Brahler met the standard with a time of 123.33 seconds, and joined Bertuch, Conti, Kilgallen, Montalvo, Aldi, Julianna Busseno, and Amelia Barkevich as part of the Amsterdam contingent that will swim in the 2017 New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 Girls Swimming and Diving Championships at Shenendehowa High School on November 2- 4, 2017.
During the meet, the Lady Rams got first place finishes from Kelly Kilgallen (200 yard freestyle), Paige Betuch (100 yard breaststroke), and the 400 yard freestyle relay team of Azia Aldi, Bertuch, Julianna Busseno, and Kilgallen in their home finale. But in the end, the Albany Lady Falcons came out on top, 98 to 59.
Turning in second place times for Amsterdam were Tessa Conti (200 yard freestyle), Anastacia Montalvo, Aldi, Kilgallen, and Conti in the 200 yard freestyle relay, and Melody Valberg, Sheridan Gowen, Amelia Barkevich, and Olivia Brahler in the 400 yard freestyle relay.
Third place finshers for the Lady Rams included; Azia Aldi (50 yard freestyle), and Montalvo, Bertuch, Busseno, and Conti in the 200 yard medley relay.
Fourth place finishes for Amsterdam included Bella Porter (200 yard freestyle, and 500 yard freestyle), Bertuch (200 yard individual medley), Montalvo (50 yard freestyle), Brahler (100 yard butterfly, 100 yard backstroke), and Aldi (100 yard freestyle).
Albany got first place efforts from Olivia Hampson in the 200 yard individual medley, and the 50 yard freestyle, Grace Van Bowen in the 100 yard freestyle, Kiana Yrrah- Samonte in the 100 yard butterfly, Maggie Carroll in the 500 yard freestyle, and Faith O’ Toole in the 100 yard backstroke. The Lady Falcons also took first in the 200 yard medley relay, and 200 yard freestyle relay events. The diving event was not contested.