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Vic’s Subs Cover Story: Mainland boys, Ocean City girls dominated swim season from start to finish

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher If you happen to run into Brian Booth or Steve Warrington anytime within, oh, say, the next six months or so, you’ll have to forgive them if all they want to talk about is high school swimming. Their respective teams, Booth’s Mainland boys and Warrington’s Ocean City girls, are coming off the best seasons in their programs’ history. The South Jersey swimming season belonged to the Mustang boys and Red Raider girls, as each team seemingly tried to consistently dominate their opponents more than the other. That fun little side rivalry was some of the best competition of the season, as each team steamrolled its way to the state playoffs, and eventually capped their seasons with state championships. For the Mainland boys, the state title was its first since the 2003 season and the second under coach Booth. Warrington, in his first year at the helm, led the Ocean City girls to their first group championship in school history. Mainland went 15-0 and scored more than 100 points in 13 of their 15 wins, while allowing opponents to score more than 50 points just three times. The Mustangs took down perennial South Jersey powerhouse Moorestown 106-61 in the Group 3 semifinals, then coasted past Scotch Plains-Fanwood 88-71 in the state championship meet. Ocean City was equally impressive. The Red Raiders went 14-0, scoring more than 100 points eight times, crushed Manasquan in the Group 3 semifinals, then beat Chatham — a team that had denied the Red Raiders a state championship two years before — 86-84 to seal their first state championship. “It’s so crazy. At the beginning of the season, everybody put that down as their goal, and it’s crazy to finally get what we deserve because everybody worked so hard for it,” said Ocean City sophomore sprinter Ryann Styer, whose sister, Noel, was a star on that 2014 team that lost to Chatham in the finals. “I honestly didn’t think we were going to make it this far. The other teams had so many new people come onto their teams, and we all thought they would be stronger and better, but we knew we could do it. We had a stage where everybody was getting kind of tired toward the end of the season, but we all just pulled through.” Said Warrington, “I knew this team had a lot of potential to go the distance. Whether or not we were able to put it all together and do it was another thing. Every time we competed, they stepped up their game. I wasn’t trying to get my hopes up too high, but I kept telling them that if they continued to out-do themselves every time they got into the water, there was no stopping them. The girls started pumping each other up, the seniors really stepped up and took charge, and it was amazing getting to the point where we could face Chatham and have an opportunity to win. When we finally did, that was icing on the cake. It was surreal.” “When we won South Jersey they pushed me into the pool. It was exciting for the kids, but (after winning states) I said, ‘don’t push me in this time.’ That’s when we got all the seniors together and I told them I’d rather jump in together with them, because it’s their team, and I just wanted to be a part of it with them,” Booth said. Eye-popping stats Taking a look at the statistics, it’s hard to believe two teams could be as dominant as the Mainland boys and Ocean City girls were this year. The only team that even came close to the Mustangs was Scotch Plains-Fanwood, and that was still a 28-point victory. Mainland beat St. Augustine Prep 102-68 in January, handing the Hermits their first loss to a Cape-Atlantic League team since the 2003 season. And Mainland continued to dominate into the Meet of Champions following their team state championship. The 200 medley relay team won gold, and the 400 freestyle relay team of Joey Rogers, Brian McGroarty, Glenn Lasco and Justin Liu set a Meet of Champions record. The record they beat? Their own. From the day before in the prelims. Senior Aly Chain and Ocean City ended Chatham's 103-meet winning streak with a victory in the Group 3 state championship. Senior Aly Chain and Ocean City ended Chatham’s 103-meet winning streak with a victory in the Group 3 state championship. “I didn’t sleep well the night before. And even on the bus ride up, I was going back and forth with the lineup. I was looking at the matchups, seeing where we could win and where we might have to sacrifice some points. We thought we might be able to pull it off, but it had to fall the way I predicted it. I said to the girls, ‘this is my best lineup. And we have to put our best foot forward in every one of these events. Every point counts, and everyone is involved. It’s now or never, this is what you’ve been waiting for, what you’ve been swimming for, and we’re finally here. Let’s make some noise,'” he said. “What I really wanted to do was to rest the third girl in the 400 relay in case it came down to us needing those points in the final event. Normally, Teofanova is one of my 500 freestyle swimmers, and I knew if I rested her and took her out of the 500, it might give us a leg up in the relay. I knew we could sacrifice some points (in the 500 free) if we could get some points in another event, and that’s what we did. The whole point was to rest her and get her excited again for that last relay. And it came down to that last point. It turned out in my favor, but it could have easily gone the other way. They say ‘good swim, good swimmer; bad swim, bad coach.’ So it was a good swim by her and I was happy that it all worked out for the girls. They’ve been wanting to do this forever.” Thrill ride The journeys of the Mainland boys and Ocean City girls captivated the South Jersey swimming world, as caravans of fans flocked to their postseason meets. Members of the Mainland girls team could be seen at every postseason meet sporting school colors and painted faces. The Ocean City girls, who won their state title on a Saturday, even rode back up to TCNJ the next day to support the Mainland boys. “It was so exciting. It’s almost sad that the season ended because of the great year we had and how much fun it was to watch the kids just get faster and faster. I compare it to horse racing. You say go, the gates open, and they just want to take off and go fast,” Booth said. “When we won in 2003 there were maybe 10 or 15 people, and that was mostly just parents. To see the crowd we had when we won the whole thing (this year), it was awesome. We outnumbered Scotch Plains fans maybe four-to-one. We took up almost the entire stands, and the energy the kids got from that was incredible.” “We knew that we were going to have to put together our best times to give this team a good run for their money. Everyone had a job to do, and everybody executed,” Mainland senior Mike Juliano said after the championship. “Anytime you win a state championship, it’s probably the best feeling in the entire world. Being able to celebrate with all these guys, I’m glad we got a final victory after all that hard work we put in this season.” “I talked to Brian a couple times throughout the year, and even after the fact, it was like, wow, what a great thing for South Jersey to show that we can dominate the swimming field,” Warrington added. “It’s really brought a lot of attention down here, and that’s awesome. It’s great to be a part of that.” Now, the pressure is really on for both teams to match this level of success next season. But both coaches said their teams are ready to take on that challenge. “Now we have a target on our backs and everybody is going to be coming after us, but let them come after us. I think we can be just as strong next year,” Warrington said. “Parents were saying, ‘what do you think about next year, coach? Repeat?’ I said, ‘you know what, we have (the potential). We just have to go out and do it. Who knows? We have a strong class coming back.” “I know we can work hard next year, and when I’m a senior, too,” Styer said. “I want to win states again. We got announced at the basketball game, and that was crazy. It was cool to think we made it that far and won.” Warrington said he had some doubts this year about whether his team had the ability to deal with the pressure down the stretch. He doesn’t have doubts anymore. “Throughout the season, I was second-guessing how this team would respond under pressure and in tight situations, but they proved me wrong time and time again,” Warrington said. Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]

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