Rocket swimmers excel in 2016-2017

Pictured here posing with their Central-South Team Sportsmanship Award, the Needham High School varsity swim and dive team had a tremendous season in 2016-2017 that resulted in a state title in the 100 breaststroke for Jack Higgins, four state records, and seven Bay State Conference All-Star selections. Photo by Aaron Sicotte

By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor

After going undefeated for the first time in decades and winning the Bay State Conference outright, it’s safe to call the 2016-2017 season an incredible success for the Needham High School swim team.

Needham began the season in dominant fashion with a victory over Catholic Conference power Boston College High School on December 15, winning all three relay events (200 Medley, 200 Freestyle, and 400 Freestyle) with state qualifying times. Four Needham swimmers and a diver had stand out individual events with Sectional or State qualifying times in Andrei Treil (Sectionals - 200 IM), Serge Sonkin (Sectionals - 100 Butterfly, State - 50 Freestyle), Ben Shapiro (Sectionals - 1m diving), Henry Keegan (Sectionals - 200 Freestyle, 500 Freestyle - States), and Eric Zhu (Sectionals - 100 Freestyle).

Following the season-opening win against BC High, the Rockets improved more and more as the season wore on, defeating conference rivals Newton-South, Wellesley, Brookline, Framingham, and Newton North to complete an undefeated season. The Rockets took home first place at the Bay State Conference Championship meet on February 2.

The success didn’t end with a conference title and undefeated regular season, however, as the Rockets were awarded the Central-South Team Sportsmanship Award, beating out 59 other teams.

Grishka Barboy and Michael Liu were named Academic All-Americans in swimming and diving thanks to their excellence inside the classroom throughout the school year.

Jack Higgins, who is heading off to the US Merchant Marine Academy in the fall following his graduation from NHS this past spring, took home the state title in the 100 breaststroke at the Division I State Championship meet with a time of 58.15. The Needham captain was also a core piece of the Rocket 200 Medley Relay team that took home third place at the state championship meet.

Needham also led the Bay State Conference in the number of conference All-Star selections (7), as Higgins, Nick Lombardo, Henry Keegan, Andrei Treil, Sergey Sonkin, Zibing Zhang, and Eric Zhu were all awarded the honors of Bay State Conference All-Stars by the Boston Globe at the season’s end.

Congratulations to the Needham swimmers and divers on an absolutely incredible 2016-2017 season and for all of their success at the State Championship meet, as well as their end-of-the-year awards.

For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at

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