The Hill School celebrated the 75th Anniversary of aquatics at Hill on Saturday, January 13, 2024, following a swim meet against Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) peer schools Blair Academy and The Hun School of Princeton. Dozens of Hill aquatics alumni and their families returned home to celebrate this milestone alongside fellow classmates, coaches, faculty, and current students.
Following a reception in the Boyer Gallery and dinner in the Center For The Arts Lobby, Coach Jay Spencer IV '84 P'13 '14 '18 '23, a former Hill swimmer and current head coach of Hill’s Swimming and Diving teams, welcomed guests to the ceremony and paid tribute to past captains and coaches of the last 75 years of Hill aquatics.
He then introduced Head of School Kathleen Devaney who expressed her appreciation to everyone in attendance, stating, “It’s an honor to be here before you and I can’t wait to hear all your stories.”
Five Hill aquatics alumni then took to the podium to share their fond memories from their time with the program: Steve Bliss '61 (Hill Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2023); Payton Miles '16; Leif Kennedy '96; Katie Gossett '03; and Alberto Mestre '82 P'17 '19 (Hill Athletics Hall of Fame Founders Hall)
When speaking on former swimming and diving head coach Ted Whatley, Bliss commented that Coach Whatley was the glue that really held the team together. He taught the team life lessons aside from others they learned from the School.
“We were blessed to have an education like this, and we were also blessed to have a tight-nit family like this one,” Bliss continued.
Although he humorously claimed to have never been a fan of swimming, Kennedy expressed that his time on the swimming and diving team was the greatest experience of his life. “It prepared me for college, the physical maturity that you gain from swimming, but also the School in general and the way I developed independence at the age of 14.”
Miles noted that she eagerly looked forward to reconnecting with her friends, as well as reuniting with her former coaches and teachers. She cherishes her favorite memories at Hill, particularly the Lawrenceville and MAPL meets. However, she attributes the lasting impact to the program itself.
“Hill swimming and diving gave me the opportunity to become a companion, team member, role model, and leader at such a young age,” she explained.
A trailblazer for women’s athletics at Hill, Gossett joined the girls’ water polo program in her third form year in 1999, just one year after the School transitioned to co-education, despite having no prior experience. Through hard work and a commitment to improve, Gossett and her teammates showed perseverance.
“We wanted everyone to know that we were here. We were strong, and we were going to prove something,” she stated.
Swimming and diving legend Alberto Mestre was one of 21 athletes inducted into the inaugural class of the Hill Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012. Notably, he stands as the School’s first Olympian.
Continuing the family tradition, Mestre's sons, Alberto '17 and Alfonso '19, proudly followed in their father's footsteps, contributing to his legacy by competing in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Reflecting on his first water polo preseason at Hill as a fourth form student, Mestre recalls the day when he had to defend the net against seasoned players. Up until this moment, he had never played water polo before. With a hint of humor, he shares, "After enduring kicks, elbows, headbutts, and punches, Coach Weaver finally took pity on me and decided to pull me out."
Following reflections, Spencer returned to the stand once more to express gratitude to everyone for joining in the celebration of Hill aquatics. View photos of the reception and ceremony below.