By GIUSEPPE UNGARO
It wasn’t long ago that the Oakcrest High School swimming programs at least considered going to a coed team because the boys numbers were so low.
The Falcons more than survived the lean years. Just a few seasons later, Oakcrest’s boys and girls teams have piled up conference championships, and entered this week with an opportunity to win sectional crowns.
The girls team, winners of the past three Cape-Atlantic League National Conference championships, was set to meet Haddonfield in the NJSIAA Group C South championship on Feb. 15.
The boys, back-to-back CAL National champions, were also scheduled to take on Haddonfield in the sectional finals on Feb. 16. Both meets ended too late for this edition of Glory Days Magazine.
“We definitely surpassed our expectations,” Oakcrest’s Haley Crispell said. “We lost a lot of really good swimmers from last year, but we also gained some, too. We just wanted to get together as a team and win the (conference), and we did.”
“I have to attribute (our success) to the team’s hard work,” senior Alfanso Roque said. “The coaches have a strict training regimen and we do our best to do it. We get to the pool and try our best every week, six days a week.”
The girls team, which defeated Middle Township, 91-79, on Jan. 27 to win its third consecutive conference title, began a winning tradition a few years ago. The Falcons’ roster is deep, talented and versatile.
All that was on display in their 102-68 playoff semifinals win over Middle Township, as Kayli Hernandez (100 breaststroke and 500 freestyle), Tori DeLusant (100 freestyle and 200 freestyle), and Bella Pagan (100 butterfly and 100 backstroke) all won two individual events.
Crispell won the 200 individual medley and Brenna Risley was first in the 50 freestyle. DeLusant, Crispell, Risley, Pagan and Hernandez were also part of two winning relay teams.
The boys handed Haddon Heights its first loss of the season on Feb. 13 in the sectional semifinals. The Oakcrest nucleus includes Roque, Carlos Lescano, Dylan Horsey, Adam Groff, Sabastien Crisaramonte, Eric Weeks and Andrew Thompson.
“This season surpassed expectations, especially because last year we made it to the (sectional) semifinals,” Roque explained. “We made it to the semifinals against this year, and we thought we could, but we weren’t sure. We had a lot of new kids come in who ended up a lot better than I thought. They ended up stepping up and helped us surpass my expectations.”
The success of the girls team didn’t go unnoticed by the boys, and it only motivated them. The Falcons’ boys team added some numbers to the program and followed in the girls’ footsteps the past two years to capture conference crowns.
“It’s what got the guys to try a lot harder because we were overshadowed, sort of,” Roque said. “They had the spotlight. But we pushed each other and we ended up winning conference titles.”
“It feels great,” Crispell said about the boys matching the girls’ success. “We are a really close team and we are there for each other every day. Even though we are two separate teams, we really are one team. We practice together every day and there for each other for all the races.”
Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDgisepu
By GIUSEPPE UNGARO