This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published April 4, 2019
John (JP) Stoeffler hit his high-water mark with the North Haven boys’ swimming and diving team in this, his final season with the squad. JP earned first place in the 50-yard freestyle at the Southern Connecticut Conference Championship, and also recorded a lifetime-best mark of 21.99 seconds in the race. Additionally, the senior captain helped the Indians at the Class M State Championship with a sixth place finish in the same event.
Growing up, JP tried a variety of different sports, but he didn’t find the right fit until 5th grade when he joined the Hamden-North Haven swim team. JP’s experience with the program paid off as he just finshed a successful four-year career with the North Haven High School boys’ swimming and diving team.
“Once I tried swimming, I really started to enjoy it. I’d always swam in my pool a lot and my mom was a swimmer, so I got the genes from her,” says JP. “I give my club coaches, Rick Lucan and Lynne Mohlenbrok, a lot of credit because I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
JP quickly learned his strengths with his best stroke being the freestyle. With many highlights throughout his career, this past season, JP won the 50-yard freestyle by swimming a lifetime-best time of 21.99 seconds at the SCC Championship.
As a junior, JP placed second in the same event at the SCC Championship to his teammate Will McLeery, who wore a tech suit–a specialty water-resistant swimsuit. After seeing the win last year, his mom got him a tech suit for this year’s SCC Championship, where JP was seeded second.
“I’m really glad she got it for me because I ended up first in the event, which was a huge deal,” says JP. “I was looking around a lot during the race and, in my peripheral vision, could see someone next to me and going into the last five yards, I had to go really hard to touch them out. It was very close, and I looked up at the scoreboard and saw my teammates, coaches, and all of the parents cheering. It was a great feeling.”
In addition to being thankful to his coaches and teammates, JP is thankful to his family and extended family for always showing their support.
JP went on to the Class M State Championships where he took sixth place in the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.53. His accomplishments were awarded with being named All-Area by The New Haven Register. While he was happy to have finished his career with two strong championship meets, the end of the season came with mixed emotions.
“We had some people swim some great times, but for our seniors, it was our last-ever meet, our last day being on the team,” he says. “It was bittersweet--being able to go out with your other seniors who have been by your side for the last four years is nice because you’ve journeyed the road together, but it’s sad because you’re leaving behind your other teammates and coaches who have done so much for you.”
Martha Phelan has coached JP for the past four years, naming him Most Valuable Player of the team all four seasons. At the end of the 2017-’18 season, Phelan named JP a captain, along with McLeery and Kevin Powers.
“He represented North Haven as a great leader, and I’m so glad that his stellar high school career ended on such a positive note. He got moment to shine. He saved his best season for his last. Being selected by The New Haven Register for the All-Area recognition is quite an accomplishment as you’re competing against public and private schools. I’m thrilled for him,” says Phelan. “One thing about JP is he is all in about team and lifting up his teammates when they succeed--he’s always been a role model for pride and sportsmanship. He’s a great kid, a great teammate, and always positive and coachable.”
JP was excited to have been named a captain of the team. He enjoyed helping Phelan and Bob Lewis, the assistant coach, but he especially loved being able to help his teammates, noting that this year the team has several new swimmers.
“As a captain you can help the younger kids who don’t know as much about the sport, and it makes you feel good to be able to help your teammates do better,” says JP. “It was an honor to have been chosen to help lead the team and be a role model.”
Looking back on his high school career, one of JP’s favorite moments came last year when North Haven beat Hamden, a feat the Indians hadn’t accomplished in many years. He remembers building up the momentum toward that meet.
“It was a huge deal when we beat them because they were so strong, and we had half of what they had for numbers, but we still had depth,” says JP. “We all executed and worked hard, and that was what won us the meet.”
This season marked JP’s last season of competitive swimming as he does not plan to continue in college. He is deciding between the University of Hartford or New England Tech in Rhode Island where he plans to study civil engineering. Wherever he goes to college, JP knows he will come back to support the Indians when he returns home. While the wins, championships, and awards have provided great memories, JP stresses that what he will remember the most is the bond he and his teammates formed, and the way they cheered each other on, in and out of the pool.
“This team is pretty much a family because we all have each others’ backs and, even though practices are tough and stressful, we’re in it together,” says JP. “We love to hang out together. The seniors are moving on and just want to cherish the memories together.”