Pierce And Teammates Swimming Along
By Elio Velez
Nicole Pierce is a 14-year-old freshman at Beach Channel and she knew prior to joining the boys swimming team that she would eventually compete against only boys. In her first meet against Grover Cleveland, the boys realized how good she was in the 200-yard medley event
I was doing the medley race and the boys were talking from behind the block how they was going to beat us. And I get in the water and they just drop their jaws", Pierce laughs. BC won the event with two girls and two boys defeating an all boys team.
Beach Channel Dolphins completed the men's swimming season in late January. the team finished 3-7 overall in the PSAL Queens standings, the team is unique in two ways.
The first is that Beach Channel is the only team in the city that has a co-ed team. The team consists of an equal amount of boys and girls and has to compete with all boys' teams throughout Queens.
"It's a tough situation for us", says head coach John Sullivan. "But the team still competes very hard in every event."
For Nicole, she had a excellet first season and her swim records would have been good enough to place in the top 5 of most swimming categories. The school tried to place her in the girls novice championships during the season, but was denied by the PSAL.
Nicole knew from her mother, Fran, who works in the guidance department at Beach Channel about the co-ed team. Though nervous at first, Nicole just like her teammates have gotten used to competing against boys only teams.
Pierce has had prior swimming experience before attending Channel. The Breezy Point native started swimming in the CYO level with St. Thomas More, when she was 9 years old. She competed in events such as the USA championships and won first place medals in the 100 yard and 200 yard events.
"She is a good athlete and can compete on a very high level", says John Sullivan, head coach of the boys swimming team. "The clock doesn't lie if she places first and someone else places second. She doesn't boast. She just tries to win." "I would like to swim here for four years and keep improving," says Pierce.
For senior co-captains Priscilla Head and Amy Grosshandler, Pierce is not only a welcome member of the team but a good friend as well. The three close friends joke around with each other and give great encouragement to one another during competitions. They root for one another when one wins an event or breaks a personal swim time.
Priscilla Head knows that Nicole is a good swimmer and helps the team get up in the morning for 7 a.m. practicea. "She had a great season. Nicole did a nice job in breaking her records and she helped us get up at 6 a.m. in the morning to practice."
Amy Grosshandler appreciated the help that Nicole gave. "Nicole kind of helped us along with technique and since she is a club swimmer, she had more experience to help us."
All three will move on to the crew coed varsity team in April, which is the only school in the city to have the sport. They will face off against private and public schools in Long Island, Upstate New York and schools within the east coast
But Pierce realized, as well as her teammates, that leaving the peninsula is the only way to practice or even compete. The second unique thing is the school does not have a regulation size pool and has their home games on the road. "Except for our game against Far Rockaway, which was an away game for us, we have had to play our home games at other schools", says Sullivan.
The team has to compete in a pool that is described by some people at Beach Channel as a bathtub. The pool is only 4 feet deep and 20 yards in length. It is not even close to a regulation pool and the school cannot use Far Rockaway as a home field due to concerns from Far Rock about security.
I've heard it (pool) was really small but I didn't believe how small it was until I saw it", says Pierce. For Rockaway, the pool issue has been talked about forever. A $200,000 study recently stated that a facility at Riis Park would be too costly to build and maintain.
Nicole's mother, Fran, who works in the guidance department in Beach Channel, knows the difficulties that Nicole and every athlete who doesn't have the facilities nearby to practice and compete in. "The kids and the community need the facilities. They can also train lifeguards here," says Fran. "They are smart, bright, healthy and well adjusted kids and it's a positive and a self esteem building sport."
"Just don't' talk about it. Build it and they will come."