By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
OCEAN CITY — For years, the Ocean City girls swimming team has been the big kid at the bus stop in the Cape-Atlantic League, but the Red Raiders have some competition now.
Egg Harbor Township trailed Ocean City 33-29 at the break, but continued to pile up second- and third-places finishes and rallied for an 86-84 victory over the perennial league champions. It may seem like a shocking result to area swim fans, but not to the Eagles, who fully expected to come into Ocean City and leave with a win. The EHT boys also won, racking up the points in a 124-46 victory over the Red Raiders.
“It was a really close race. Ocean City is really good, but so is EHT. We gave it our all, and it was a great outcome. We have a lot of swimmers, and a lot of good swimmers, so we’re very well-rounded. This is a great team we have,” said senior Leenah Sarhan. “We’ve been growing every single year. Practices have been getting harder and longer. We’ve been training really hard, and it’s paying off. This shows other teams what we have coming into this year and that we’re a team to beat.”
“They were really excited about the meet. They knew it was going to be close, but we have some new freshmen this year who we knew were going to be strong,” said Cristian Bell, a senior on the EHT boys squad. “It came down to some close finishes, but we knew they had it in them.”
The Eagles (2-0), coming off an 89-81 win over Atlantic City, registered just three first-place finishes, but continued to place in the top three in most events to keep the score close heading into the final event, the 400 freestyle relay. The Red Raiders’ team of Maggie Wallace, Emily Myers, Alex Antonov and Ryanna Styer clocked in at 4:09.47 to win the event, but EHT took second, third and fifth in the event to get the points it needed to secure the overall team victory. Sarhan teamed up with Cracy Curry, Ava McDonough and Alexandria Cotter to post a 4:13.52 to finish second. Wallace posted a pair of individual wins, in the 200 freestyle and 100 back, and Styer won the 50 free and was on a pair of winning relay teams.
“This is unbelievable. I’m a junior, and we haven’t beaten them since I’ve been in high school. I knew it would be close, but I didn’t think it would be that close. There was a definite possibility (of us winning). From previous year to now they’ve lost a lot of people, but they are still pretty strong,” said Curry, a junior who also won the 100 fly, was on the winning 200 medley relay team and took second in the 100 backstroke. “We know them, so it wasn’t anything new. We just had to step up and race here, and everyone did.”
On the boys side, it was complete domination by the Eagles, as EHT (2-0) finished first in every event except the 100 breaststroke and the 500 freestyle, and racked up seven more second-place finishes. Doug Grisbaum took home first place for Ocean City (1-3) in the 500 free, while Nate Hays finished first in the 100 yard breaststroke and broke his own school record with a 2:14.54 in the 200 IM in a second-place finish behind EHT’s Bell’s 2:10.47.
“We’re excited. This year, we have so many new kids. We’re so fast and have so much depth, and I think that really showed. We all put our best effort in,” Bell said. “This is great for where we are now and I think we’re only going to get faster. We have a lot of guys with a lot of potential, so we’re excited.”
“We’re excited and looking forward to this year. We only lost one kid from last year, so everyone is a year older and we have a ton of new kids, too, who are swimming fast, so things are looking up,” added fellow senior Tyler Valentino, who took second in the 100 back and was part of the 200 medley relay team, along with Josh Dimayuga, A.J. Mallari and Curtis Li, that took second. “We practice hard, we train hard, we’re all here together, and it showed in our swims today. So far, we’re doing really well this season, and like Cristian said, we’re only going to get better.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays