The following excerpt and photos are from an article that appears in the Spring 2016 issue of Matters Magazine, the full-color print publication that has been sharing the best news of living in Maplewood and South Orange since 1990. Our thanks to Matters publisher Karen Duncan for this generous gesture. To see the full story, visit here or look for an issue of Matters at your local businesses and libraries — or in your mailbox!
Maggie Keenan (then Maggie Singler) was about 3 years old when she jumped off the steps of the Maplewood pool and happily swam around the shallow end on her own.
“People were always asking my mom, ‘When did she learn to swim?’ and my mom would say, “She’s always been like that. Always a swimmer,” Keenan remembered.
She swam on the Maplewood town team, became a lifeguard at 14 and worked at the town pool for 19 years. She swam in the Junior Olympics, set records at Columbia High School and won the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle at the Essex County Championships three years in a row. She also won the 50 freestyle at the Iron Hills Championship three years running. She swam in college and in masters’ leagues, coached the Maplewood Makos, and in 2011 was the first female swimmer to be inducted into Columbia High School’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
These days Keenan works as a teacher, lives with her family in the Maplewood home where she grew up, and for the past four years has been the varsity swim coach at Columbia High School.
Columbia’s swim history is as remarkable as Keenan’s. First, it’s highly unusual for a high school in our area to have its own pool, and Columbia’s pool has stunning architectural significance. Its tiled, arched, vaulted ceilings are an example of Guastavino vaulting, the same style used in the oyster bar at Grand Central Station, the Registry Hall at Ellis Island and the pool at West Point.
Until the late 1990s, the Columbia High School swim team was co-ed, with girls swimming against boys in the same events. Now they’re split by gender. Last year’s swim teams had 15 boys and 45 girls, divided into varsity and junior varsity teams.
The 2015-16 swim season at Columbia was an exceptionally good one. The girls’ team swam an undefeated regular season and finished 14-0, trouncing Caldwell, Mount St. Dominic and Montclair. They beat teams with faster times. But how? Keenan attributes the team’s success to outstanding teamwork.
Read the entire story and see more photos at mattersmagazine.com.
Click on photos below to enlarge: