Coach Pam Owens has two captains on the Robbinsville High boys’ swimming team that don’t just yell “C’mon let’s go!” to prove they are captains.
In seniors Rohan Bajaj and Dan Quiroga, Owens has two club swimmers who make the kind of individual sacrifices necessary for the good of the team.
Both do the 200 and 500 freestyle, the 100 fly and the 200 individual medley. But due to a rotation system, neither get to consistently do the same each meet. Depending on who the competition is, Bajaj might do the 200 free and 100 fly while Quiroga does the 500 free and 200 IM in the same meet. The next meet, they may change.
This, of course, does not allow them to focus on two certain events, thus perhaps taking a little edge off their times in building toward counties and states.
“They are alternating and training across the board,” Owens said. “They really are being very good captains and showing good sportsmanship by taking turns with it. It’s not all about ‘me, me, me’ but about sharing the wealth in those events to help the team out.
“Both of them are trying to train for distance events, more so for their clubs. But for us they have to make time to train across the board for all these events, which I greatly appreciate. They know how it will impact the team and how it gives us some more depth and versatility by allowing us to switch them around, and they realize that. I can’t put them in just their true events, but they’re OK with it.”
Owens said in a perfect world they would probably both be focusing on the 200 and 500, but are still solid in the other events.
Quiroga began swimming at age 6 but did not start doing it competitively until he was 10. He swims club for the Princeton Tigers and feels the 100 fly and distance freestyle are probably the events he enjoys most.
Still, he has no problem picking up the slack in other events.
“We’re trying to bring our club experience to high school swimming so if we have to switch events then I’ll do it,” Quiroga said. “We need to put the best lineup possible out there. Sometimes you don’t swim what you necessarily want to, but it will be the best team possible.”
Bajaj began swimming for the Edison YMCA at a young age and when his family moved to Robbinsville he joined the Hamilton Aquatics Club in fifth grade.
He, too, is happy to help out the Ravens any way possible.
“I feel this helps me and the team out at the same time,” Bajaj said. “The last three years I spent doing the same events and hadn’t grown personality-wise. I think I’ve learned to be more with the team by alternating events. I’ve learned to do events that I knew I could do but never tried in racing, and it’s been a good experience.”
Owens thinks her team may have a chance at qualifying for the state sectionals, but the only way that would even be possible is if the captains agreed to do different events.
“This might lead to more wins and better power-pointing,” the coach said. “It gives me the opportunity at looking where our strongest lineup is. Last year we only had one set lineup for the boys, this year it’s an opportunity to adjust and play around with our lineup.
“I absolutely commend both of these boys for doing what they’re doing. They work together, they’re competitive, they’re out to seek that win for the team. They really have come together as leaders of the team and as captains. They are showing that responsibility and leadership.”
It’s what has to be done in high school, where the team result is as important–and sometimes more important–than the individual result. Club swimming is about individuals from all different towns showing what they can do, but in high school there is that camaraderie of classmates trying to win a meet against another squad of classmates.
“Yeah, that’s the bigger difference between the two,” Bajaj said. “Swimming in clubs, I’m focusing on my long distance events that I normally swim. In high school it’s like “OK, maybe try this out to see if it works better for everyone else. Coach Owens got that idea for us to help out and we’re actually good at it. We were both willing to sacrifice for what’s better for the team.”
“It’s a lot smaller group in high school,” Quiroga said. “We’re able to lead them as captains and bring our experience and help the freshmen and sophomores who are new to it. And we try to bond with them in school.”
The two do more than just perform in the water. On Dec. 10, Owens was diagnosed with walking pneumonia. She still made it to her teaching job at Allentown High School and got to Ravens practices but she was hardly at 100 percent.
Thus, Quiroga and Bajaj did the paperwork for the team’s Dec. 13 dual meet with Nottingham.
“They made out the whole lineup,” Owens said. “They knew I was sick, and they said, ‘You know what coach, let us do it.’ It was funny because they were saying ‘Hey, this is harder than we thought. This guy is sick, what are we supposed to do?’ But I was just really impressed at how they took on that responsibility.”
It proved once again, that they are captains in more than title only.