Stafford Leader Southern Winter Sports Previews

Consistently Good Even Under Pressure, Malandro Ready to Push Her Limits This Season

By DAVID BIGGY | Dec 13, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy

Stafford Township, NJ — When Abigail Malandro was entering the Southern Regional High School girls swimming program as a freshman, coach Bill Entrikin had lots of positive things to say about the young freestyle sprinter. At the time, he used phrases like “great future ahead” and “going to be awesome.” Now a senior, Malandro has been one of the most consistently good sprinters in program history during the past three seasons – coming in as a freshman, lighting up the pool at St. Francis Aquatic Center and maintaining that fire since.

“I love the challenge of swimming,” she said. “It’s just you and your time. You have total control of how much you want to push yourself and how hard you want to work. Every day, I get into the pool knowing there’s another challenge ahead of me, but there’s also the team aspect, and I’d do anything for my teammates.”

What Abigail’s been asked to do for the past few seasons is swim the two fastest events in the pool – to use her length and strong upper body to cut through the water in the middle lanes and post the fastest times she can muster each day.

“She’s been put in a lot of tough, high-pressure situations during her first three seasons,” Entrikin said. “Her freshman year, she had a huge win against Mainland that clinched our first win against them. She anchors several of our relays, and as a sophomore she cracked 25 seconds in her 50-yard split to help our 200-free relay finish well in the state meet. She always comes through when the pressure is on her.”

This winter as one of the Rams’ captains, Malandro again will square off with some pressure situations, mainly as a focal point on an otherwise young team. Not only will she be a leader by example in the pool during meets, Malandro is expected to be more of a vocal leader on the deck.

“I’m definitely ready for that role,” she said. “My focus is to just keep everybody in a positive environment. We all have our down days, so when somebody has that down day, I’ll be there to lift her up.”

As for her goals in the water, nothing’s really changed. Malandro is still chasing after former standout Gabby Cabaron’s records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, but she knows she has a legitimate shot at them.

However, as a sprint freestyler, the margin of error is so slight it doesn’t pay to think about records, Entrikin said.

“I’m not going to talk to her about them,” he said. “Abby will be Abby. If she does what she does every day, everything’s going to be good. She can break those records. She has the ability. But will she? Who knows? With sprinters, if you start talking about times, it doesn’t work out well. If she just swims her race to the best of her ability every day, the time takes care of itself. She has enough to think about, so throwing times into the discussion messes up things.”

Still, Malandro knows she has better times in her, but she doesn’t want to overthink things.

“In my events, there’s not much time to think,” she said. “In the 50, I usually go down the first 25, make the turn, take a breath out of the turn, then put my face down and go. I’d like to break 25 seconds, but I’ll take 25.34 because it will be better than my personal record.

“I believe I have a more realistic shot at breaking 55 seconds in the 100, and that’s more my goal at this point. It’s a different mental state for each race.”

Entrikin said the fine line between Malandro’s consistently solid times and breaking both personal records and possibly team records hinges on how well she refines her turns and kick this winter.

“With Abby, she’s improved her starts a lot since her freshman year, when her dives weren’t the cleanest,” he said. “The one spot we’re always working on is her turn and kick. She cuts through the water very well, but her kick can be better, especially on the 100.”

Nonetheless, whatever the results turn out to be, Abigail’s going to enjoy her senior season as she looks ahead toward swimming somewhere at the college level.

“I just do what I do, and I love it,” she said. “I’ve been swimming since I’m 6 years old, and the pain I’ve pushed through to get better has been worth it. I do it for my team because I’d do anything for them, but I do it because I enjoy it.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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