The Smoke Signal

Lifelong passion instills valuable lessons for Pascack swimmer

Haleigh+Marzano+%28left%29+poses+with+Team+USA+swimmer+Megan+Romano.+Romano+surprised+Marzano+by+inviting+her+to+swim+with+her+at+a+clinic.
Haleigh Marzano (left) poses with Team USA swimmer Megan Romano. Romano surprised Marzano by inviting her to swim with her at a clinic.

Haleigh Marzano (left) poses with Team USA swimmer Megan Romano. Romano surprised Marzano by inviting her to swim with her at a clinic.

Noah Schwartz

Noah Schwartz

Haleigh Marzano (left) poses with Team USA swimmer Megan Romano. Romano surprised Marzano by inviting her to swim with her at a clinic.

Josh DeLuca, Sports Editor

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For one Pascack Valley junior, a tactic to spend more time with her best friend and neighbor over the summer turned into a passion and a life-changing decision. When she was seven years old, after some nudging, Haleigh Marzano decided to join her local swim team in Ardsley, New York.

Although she had never swam competitively before, Marzano found success almost immediately. In her first season, the seven-year-old made the county tournament as a backstroker.

“I ended up being good at it. I just liked working hard at something everyday, and trying to better myself,” Marzano said.  “It didn’t matter what sport, I guess, but it ended up being swimming.”

Over the years, Marzano, now 17, has learned a lot about how to swim well and improve her times.  However, swimming has taught her a lot, as well. One of the best swimmers in Bergen County for Pascack Swimming, she has also swam for a club team since she was nine.

“That’s what makes it crazy in the winter for me,” she said. “I have my club meets. I have my club practices every day, like twice a day sometimes. But then I also have high school in the mornings, and I have high school meets.”

With swimming and school work pulling her in different directions, Marzano has had to adjust her lifestyle to meet the demands of both.

“Going through high school, I’ve kinda just had to learn and adapt.  Freshman year was really bad, I didn’t sleep at all,” she said.  “But I’ve learned that you can’t sacrifice sleep. You don’t do well.”

Thanks to swimming, Marzano has also learned how to deal with adversity.  Since eighth grade, she had been trying to make the cut for Junior Nationals, but each time had finished fractions of a second short of qualification.  She “didn’t know how to respond” when she did not make it, and would even cry.

However, Marzano soon had an epiphany, which completely changed her outlook.

“I didn’t really know how to handle failure,” she said. “But as you grow, you learn that it’s not really the failure that makes you bad. That’s what makes you stronger.”

After she finished fractions of a second short yet again at the State Tournament last year, Marzano was upset at first, but then realized how lucky she was that she could “just keep trying.”

Immediately after failing to qualify at the State Tournament in South Jersey, Marzano drove nearly four hours to another pool, where she could have a “time trial,” and try to post the necessary time.  Filled with nerves and without a warmup, Marzano attempted to qualify one last time.

“I got up to the block, and I was like ‘It doesn’t matter. I’m going to put everything I have into this, and if I don’t make it, it’s whatever.’ But I ended up making it, and it was awesome. It was the best feeling in the world.”

After failing so many times to make the cut, Marzano finally punched her ticket to the National Club Swimming Association Junior Nationals in Orlando.  The experience at the meet was “so cool”, as she got the chance to interact with people from all across the country and received copies of her races on flash drives.

Since then, Marzano has enjoyed even more success in the pool.  This season, Marzano earned First Team All-around All-county honors. In addition, she placed 17th in the 100m breaststroke in the prelims at the State Meet of Champions with a time of 1:06.99 and 21st in prelims of the 200 IM with a time of 2:10.99.  She broke the school record in the 200m freestyle relay with a time of 1:43.58 along with Emma Wentland, Jen Malocha, and Danni Freeman.

As a result of her stellar season, Pascack Swimming Coach Courtney Farrell helped orchestrate a surprise for Marzano.  On Feb. 9, Team USA swimmer Megan Romano visited Pascack Valley to invite Marzano to swim with her at a clinic on Feb. 11.

“It’s just more dedication and what they want to accomplish. [I like] seeing how much they care about the sport,” Romano said of the types of swimmers that she likes to teach.

Though neither of them knew much about each other prior to meeting, they have some things in common. Like Marzano, Romano has dealt with some adversity.  At the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, she missed the Olympic Team by 0.14 seconds.  However, she didn’t “throw [herself] a pity party,” and instead, went on to compete in three more World Championships and set many U.S. and World records.

“I’m very, very surprised. I’m so happy. That was so cool. She’s such an inspiration,” Marzano said. “It’s an amazing opportunity.”

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Lifelong passion instills valuable lessons for Pascack swimmer