PURE GRIT: Barnegat senior Declan Lustenberger churns through the last leg of the 100-yard freestyle during the Bengals’ state tournament victory over West Deptford on Feb. 10. (Photos by David Biggy)
The Barnegat boys swim team has a whole crop of seniors who are on their way out of the program, but’s that not what Declan Lustenberger considered the Bengals’ secret weapon this season.
“Our secret weapon is Coach Cherry,” he said after Emily Cherry’s third-seeded Bengals knocked off sixth-seeded West Deptford, 104-66, in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group C tournament on Feb. 10. “She knows how to make those meet sheets and she finds those cracks where we can score points to keep winning. She just knows how to make things work for our team.”
Against the Eagles, Cherry utilized her squad’s experience and depth to help send the Bengals ahead to the semifinals. Of course, she always says their hard work and prowess in the pool are the keys to victory, and that certainly was the case in the quarters, as the Bengals swiped the top two spots in four of the first eight events to take a commanding 84-40 lead.
After Christopher Schumann, Ryan Schager, Lustenberger and Justin Sullivan won the 200-yard medley relay in 1:54.54, followed in third place by the team of Danny Ohr, Noah Jeremias, Tyler Finkle and Anthony Idone, Barnegat pushed the initial lead to 14 points, 22-8, when Schager won the 200-yard freestyle in 2:09.10 and Christopher DeLeeuw delivered a second-place finish.
Schumann and Ryan Grant scored second- and third-place points in the 200-yard medley relay to give the Eagles their first of only three even-pointed events, but Lustenberger (24.66 seconds) and Sullivan (25.17 seconds) swiped the top two positions in the 50-yard freestyle to make it a 20-point contest. Finkle won the 100-yard butterfly in 1:08.60 and Ohr and Logan Wheeler finished third and fourth, respectively, to make it 52-26.
GET GOING: Barnegat senior Ryan Schager launches from the starting block to begin the 200-yard freestyle relay during the Bengals’ state tourney win against West Deptford on Feb. 10.
Lustenberger then clocked 57.84 seconds and Schumann touched the wall in 59.47 seconds to lead a 12-point effort in the 100-yard freestyle, all but thwarting any hope of West Deptford coming back. After DeLeeuw won the 500-yard freestyle in 6:14.70, the 200-yard freestyle crew of Schager, Joe Fiorentino, Sullivan and Lustenberger led the way with a time of 1:46.44, while the foursome of Jeremias, Finkle, DeLeeuw and Wheeler took second to make it a 44-point meet with three events left.
Ohr managed to grab third in the 100-yard backstroke, while Schager took second in the 100-yard breaststroke, and the 400-yard freestyle team of Finkle, Fiorentino, Idone and Schumann closed out the contest with a second-place finish in 4:07.33.
“We don’t win with a lot of first places,” Schager said. “We win with our depth, taking second, third and fourth in a lot of events. This group of seniors experienced winning the first state sectional title in school history as freshmen, and for the past few years we’ve had our minds set on getting back to the final to try to win another.”
Unfortunately, second-seeded Cedar Creek got in the way. The Pirates ousted the Bengals from the state tournament with a 100-70 decision on Feb. 14.
Swimming in a meter pool, Ohr, Schager, Lustenberger and Sullivan grabbed second in the medley relay with a time of 2:06.06, while Schager snagged second in the 100 IM in 2:29.43, and Schager grabbed second in the 50 free in 27.44 seconds, just ahead of Lustenberger. Finkle (1:18.48) and Ryan Grant (1:22.01) took second and third in the 100 butterfly, but Cedar Creek took the top two spots in the 100 free to maintain its lead.
DeLeeuw managed to grab second in 5:35.74 during the 500 free, but the Pirates took first and third in the 200 free relay, surrounding the second-place Barnegat team of Fiorentino, Emanuel Valles, Idone and Sullivan (1:58.73), and then sealed the victory by taking three of the top four spots in the 100 back. The Bengals finally won an event when Schager clocked a 1:13.51 to take first in the 100 breaststroke, before Schumann, Finkle, Schager and Lustenberger capped the season with a 4:15.60 in the final relay.
For Southern Girls
CRUISIN’ BY: Southern Regional senior Brooke Boyd heads toward the turn on her first leg of the 200-yard freestyle relay during the Rams’ state tournament win over Eastern Regional on Feb. 8.
While the state tournament road ended for the Southern Regional girls swim team on Feb. 10, marking the first loss of the season for the Rams, it didn’t occur until Bill Entrikin’s squad scored a solid, 95-75, win over Eastern Regional in the first round of the South Jersey Group IV tourney.
“Eastern’s boys team scored a few points higher than ours and ended up knocking them out of contention for a state tournament spot,” said Haley Skimmons, who anchored the team of Mohini Jani, Francesca Fields and Brooke Boyd to take second in the medley relay with a time of 1:57.50. “So this meant a little more for us, as we tried to take down Eastern today. Victories aren’t always guaranteed, but I know what I’m leaving behind, as one of the seniors, is a really special group of girls.”
The Rams (10-1) didn’t win an event until the 200 free relay, but that didn’t prevent them from building a big enough lead through the first eight events before they threw down the hammer.
“A lot of teams really look to their top swimmers to carry a lot of the points, but we don’t focus on our top swimmers,” said Rachel Vazquez. “We rely on all our swimmers to score points, and the proof of that is our three consecutive division titles. We all work hard to score points and win meets.”
It was evident against Eastern, which clearly had several of the top swimmers in the pool, but not the same kind of depth as Southern, which scored points in every event, mainly by finishing second, third and fourth or second, third and fifth.
Shae Centanni, Chloe Furlong and Isabella Wyckoff placed second, third and fourth in the 200 free to make it a 15-15 contest after two events, and it remained tied when Payton Nork, Julianna Marco and Amalie Werner went 2-3-5 in the 200 IM. But the gap opened a little in Southern’s favor during the 50 free when Boyd, Jessica Paulillo and Skimmons took second, third and fourth.
SOLID STROKE: Southern senior Rachel Vazquez glides through the second leg of the 100-yard backstroke during the Rams’ state tourney victory against Eastern Regional on Feb. 8.
Fields swiped second in the 100 butterfly in 1:04.75 to lead Boyd, who placed third, and Marco, who finished fifth, to keep the meet a two-point affair, 40-38, but Centanni, Paulillo and Emma Mills scored second-, third- and fourth-place points, respectively, to edge the margin higher.
After Nork, Furlong and Rachel Short delivered another 2-3-4 effort in the 500 free, the Rams finally won an event and swept the two spots in the 200 free relay. Boyd, Skimmons, Wyckoff and Centanni touched the wall in 1:49.15, while Fields, Erin Little, Lauren Pascucci and Mills clocked a 1:52.68. The 12-point effort opened the gap to 16 points, 70-54.
“I told the girls the lineup last week and I said that we could expect to win just two events,” Entrikin said. “They had four studs on their team, and I invited them to load up on the medley relay and win it, because I knew if they used their four studs there that meant they wouldn’t have all of them in another relay. And wherever that relay was going to be, I knew we had the depth to 1-2 them. That’s exactly what happened.”
After Jani, Vazquez and Werner finished second, third and fifth in the 100 backstroke, Fields, Talia Duralek and Bella English jammed the dagger into the Vikings’ hearts by sweeping the 100 breaststroke – Fields won in 1:11.57, while Duralek clocked a 1:16.19, and English touched in 1:19.03.
Unfortunately, fourth-seeded Vinelands ended Southern’s season with a 116-54 victory in the quarterfinals. Centanni managed a second-place finish in the 200 free (2:24.66), while Boyd took second in the 50 free (29.54 seconds), and Fields won the 100 breaststroke (1:19.43), but the Rams didn’t place among the top two in any of the other individual events or the relays.
— David Biggy
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