EAST PROVIDENCE — Enthusiasm is never a problem for the respective East Providence High School swim teams and numbers, which in the recent past have been, are becoming less of one as the …
EAST PROVIDENCE — Enthusiasm is never a problem for the respective East Providence High School swim teams and numbers, which in the recent past have been, are becoming less of one as the 2023-24 season nears its start in a few weeks.
Third-year Townies head coach Bob Hassan expects the roster sizes of both the boys and girls squads to approach double digits, which is a meaningful increase for the latter. The EPHS girls weren't always able to put competitive relay quartets in the pool in recent years.
"Both teams have grown, which is really nice," said Hassan, who also leads the Tidal Waves program at the Boys and Girls Club of East Providence, the Townies' home pool the last several seasons. "We have some really good freshmen coming in who are experienced swimmers. We're really excited to have them."
The girls went 2-4 in Division IV regular season meets last winter. The boys finished in a three-way share of first place during the dual meet slate with neighbor Providence Country Day, which competes in a co-operative with St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, and Blackstone Valley Prep. Each team lost to the other, finishing with 3-1 records. The aforementioned PCD/SRA swept the Division IV championship meets, winning the titles for both genders.
At the 2023 D-IV championships, the Townies' top male swimmers together collected the only event for the locals on either side. The team of Ryan Branch, Gavin Hanley, Kevin Bettencourt and Nick Capobianco clocked a time of 4:01.04 to win the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Capobianco, on the boys' side, and Ines Benadouda, from the girls' team, represented EPHS in the 2023 boys’ and girls’ state championships at Brown University, each swimming personal best times in their events.
Capobianco clocked 1 minute, .61 seconds in the 100-yard backstroke to place 12th overall. Zach Szabo of North Kingstown won the event in 50.65. Capobianco was 13th in the 200 individual medley with his time of 2:14.65. George Groves of Classical won the event in 1:55.16. Benadouda clocked a 1:10.15 in the 100 fly to finish 28th. Katie Chiappetta of Blackstone Valley Prep won the event in 58.28.
Capobianco, a senior, and Bettencourt, a junior, pace the boys contingent. Both swim all four strokes: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Branch, a senior, and Hanley, a junior, swim multiples strokes and again are part of the top relay groupings with Capobianco and Bettencourt.
Sophomore Slate Vandal, who swims free and back, is the other returnee to the roster.
Three freshmen have joined the program — Kaden Vaughn, Jaden Bettencourt and Collin Leduc. Hassan said each swim the back and breast and are working on butterfly.
"Nick is pretty comparable to where he was last year. He's just working to improve his times, refine his strokes" said Hassan. "We're excited to have that experience coming back mixed in with freshmen with experience. All of them have swum before, whether it's club or during the summer, so it's nice to have that coming into the team."
Benedouda, now a senior, once again leads the cast of returnees to the EPHS girls squad, a group that also included junior Maggie Robinson along with sophomores Cassie Delude, Aalina Amoros and Jayla DeGraca.
"I'm sure Ines will qualify for states. It's just a matter of what we tries for this year. She can do all the strokes," said Gagnon. "And with the inclusion of the new swimmers to the team this year, we don't have rely on her to swim one specific event. We can move her around to different events."
The Townies are boosted by the addition of freshman Sadie Gagnon, considered to be one of the top all-around swimmers for her age group in the state if not the region. Hassan said he expects Gagnon, who swims club for the Gators Swim Club out of nearby Seekonk, to qualify for states in the 100 fly and 200 individual medley along with possibly in a freestyle event as well.
Of Gagnon, Hassan said, "We're very excited to have her. She is a great swimmer and a great teammate. She helps out with less experienced swimmers, gives them positive encouragement. It's only been a week, but it's already been really good to have her on the team."
Two other freshmen expected to make an immediate impact are Madison Luu and Bethany Bernard, each of whom can compete in all four strokes. Each come with plenty of laps under their suits. Bernard swims for the Tidal Waves while Luu swims for Hassan in another of his programs during the summer at the Bayside YMCA in Barrington.
The champion PCD/SRA sides have been realigned up into the D-III ranks, which should leave a void for both EPHS squads to try to fill. Hassan expects Blackstone Valley Prep, in both genders, and Mount St. Charles, in boys, to be among the other top sides. Toll Gate moved down from three to fill the PCD/SRA spot in D-IV.
"I absolutely think we'll be right there in the boys and with a little more depth I think the girls will do a lot better," Hassan said. "The reasonable expectations I would say would be for us to right up their towards the top. The future looks bright, especially with the girls with three experienced swimmers coming next year. This year, with Nick, Ines and Sadie, we're hopefully looking to have them qualify for states and maybe a few others."
The Townies open their 2023-24 meet schedule on Wednesday, Dec. 20, at 3:30 p.m. against visiting Mount St. Charles at the Boys and Girls Club on East Providence, located on Williams Avenue off Broadway.