Julieyanna Parker had a golden opportunity during her first year of high school. She was able to join the Hillsborough swimming team with her sister, Jacquelynn Parker, who is currently attending Rider University. Together they formed a well-built Hillsborough team, but fell just short of their ultimate goal, which is winning a state championship.
Parker’s sister has since graduated, but the junior is still focused on the goal the siblings formed together. The new season had a promising start for the Raiders; they carried a perfect record heading into the postseason.
Unfortunately for Hillsborough, they ran into Hunterdon Central during the semifinals of the North 2 Public A sectional, a team they defeated during an earlier meet. The Raiders were untouched during the regular season and came in as the clear favorites. Hunterdon Central accepted the underdog role and even used it as motivation. They pulled the upset behind Holly Christensen and Jess Ambrose.
“Since we were undefeated during the regular season I thought we would go really far in states and perform well,” Parker said. “It was a tough blow, but it was a great meet for both teams. Central swam faster that day.”
“They were disappointed that we didn’t have our best meet,” Hillsborough coach Todd Sudol said. “Instead of the girls hanging their heads and calling it quit – they didn’t stop. They realized they had another shot at the Meet of Champs. I was pretty impressed with their attitude. That also motivated Julieyanna because she knew she wasn’t done yet for the year.”
This was a defining moment for Parker and her teammates. It was an unfamiliar area for the girls, but Hillsborough did not let that loss stay in their heads for long. In fact, it quickly became a distant memory. Instead, the Raiders set their hearts on the Meet of Champions.
It was new life. A second chance to prove their worth.
Parker experienced a similar situation during past swim seasons. This type of adversity was a comparable situation to her freshman year when Hillsborough had a tough loss in the semifinals of their section, but the team never lost hope, sweeping the relays at the MoC that year.
Hillsborough entered Gloucester County Institute of Technology determined to finish the season strong. They did just that, concluding the day with three gold medals. Parker was able to capture the 100 butterfly title (54.45) for the second consecutive year in a row. Parker, the Courier News Girls Swimmer of the Year, became the first female swimmer from Hillsborough to win an individual state championship when she collected a gold medal in the event as a sophomore.
“Just her race mentality, how she prepares herself for the race, I think the mindset she puts herself in is an intangible thing she has as an athlete,” Sudol said about his top athlete. “She is very determined. I could tell that day on the pool deck that she had the fire that day.”
Parker helped the Raiders seize a gold medal in the 200 medley relay (1:46.40) to start the day. Hillsborough’s also placed second in the 200 free relay (1:37.09) and the 400 free relay (3:31.00), just short of sweeping all three events.
“We definitely wanted to prove to everyone else that we are a force to be reckoned with,” Parker said. “I knew that we would do really well.”
Hillsborough relied heavily on their relay teams throughout the season. During a close meet on Jan. 20, Parker and the rest of her relay group put the finishing touches on Montgomery during the last event of the contest. The Raiders were no stranger to this type of competition, they faced one of the toughest schedules in the state, but this only made them better.
The unselfish play of Hillsborough is something that is noticeable when spectators are by the pool. The Hillsborough swimmers know that their relay team is a strength when they are in the water; this usually leads to the girls foregoing a second individual race at meets so they can compete in the relay proceedings.
That is why it comes as no surprise to hear Parker explain her top goal heading into her senior year, which is to win a state championship for Hillsborough. Parker has seen individual success during her three years at the school, but when she jumps into the lanes next year, she wants to make sure her work is going towards the ultimate prize, a state championship.
“After my first year when we made it to the semifinals against Westfield, that was a close meet and we lost, and my sister was a senior that year, since she didn’t get to win the state title with the team, my senior year I want to be able to win that state title,” Parker said. “I want to do it for my team, for myself and for all of the seniors who won’t be able to be there next year. We will swim it for them and do it for the team.”
As selected by the Skyland Conference
200 Medley Relay: Hillsborough
200 Free: Brianna McKenna, Montgomery
200 IM: Megan Bull, Hillsborough
50 Free: Ingrid Shu, Pingry
100 Fly: Julieyanna Parker, Hillsborough
100 Free: Holly Christensen, Hunterdon Central
500 Free: Julia Bland, Montgomery
200 Free Relay: Hillsborough
100 Back: Shay Hollander, Mount St. Mary
100 Breast: Jess Ambrose, Hunterdon Central
400 Free Relay: Hillsborough
200 Medley Relay: Montgomery
200 Free: Grace Palfreyman, Bridgewater-Raritan
200 IM: Katie King, Montgomery
50 Free: Kara Lydzinski, Montgomery
100 Fly: Marlise Moesch, Watchung Hills
100 Free: Alex Gebel, Bridgewater-Raritan
500 Free: Jenna D’Allegro, Montgomery
200 Free Relay: Mount St. Mary
100 Back: Mary Day, Mount St. Mary
100 Breast: Allison Herman, Hunterdon Central
400 Free Relay: Montgomery
200 Medley Relay: North Hunterdon
200 Free: Sarah Feiner, Delaware Valley
200 IM: Elise Devlin, Phillipsburg
50 Free: Maddie Hynoski, North Hunterdon
100 Fly: Magan Sardis, Bernards
100 Free: Shannon Mulreed, Somerville
500 Free: Tatiana Prendella, Bernards
200 Free Relay: Bernards
100 Back: Chynna Walsh, Immaculata
100 Breast: Claire Lee, North Hunterdon
400 Free Relay: Bernards
200 Medley Relay: Immaculata
200 Free: Hannah Davis, Phillipsburg
200 IM: Shaelyn McClaughry, Somerville
50 Free: Isabella St.Onge, Bernards
100 Fly: Carmen Kuo, North Hunterdon
100 Free: Shannon Phillips, Bernards
500 Free: Julia Rigatti, Voorhees
200 Free Relay: North Hunterdon
100 Back: Sarah Adam, Immaculata
100 Breaststroke: Emily Murphy, North Hunterdon
400 Free Relay: Phillipsburg