Barnegat Boys Swim Team Looks to Make History in Final, Cruises Through Sectional Semifinals

Feb 14, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Barnegat’s Dylan Cappuccio blazes through the breaststroke leg of the 200-yard medley relay during the Bengals’ 106.5-63.5 victory over Cedar Creek in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group C semifinals on Feb. 12.

About a month ago, Barnegat High School Athletic Director John Germano had mentioned to boys swimming head coach Emily Cherry that her Bengals had a chance to make history by capturing a state sectional championship. Cherry made the mistake of telling one of the team’s swimmers, junior Kyle Smith.

“Kyle hasn’t forgotten that little fact, and now the whole team knows it,” said Cherry, whose squad took another step closer toward making history with a 106.5-63.5 victory over Cedar Creek in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group C semifinals on Feb. 12 at the St. Francis Community Center. “But at this point, it’s all on them. They know what’s at stake, and they’re swimming really well right now.”

The Bengals (10-1-1) went into this season expecting to be back in the state tournament. But the added bonus of perennial powerhouse Haddonfield – which had a solid sectional-title winning streak coming out of last season – and neighboring Haddon Heights being shifted to new sections by the NJSIAA during an offseason realignment meant Barnegat was a prime contender for the South C title, the other being Oakcrest.

With the Falcons earning the top seed and the Bengals grabbing the second seed as the tourney got underway, the way was paved for the two to meet up in the final. Barnegat did its part by ousting Cedar Creek, and Oakcrest followed suit with a 109-61 victory over Schalick. The championship was slated for Wednesday, Feb. 14, at Gloucester County Institute of Technology.

Should Barnegat win in its first attempt in a section final, the “history” part is that no team since the school opened in 2004 has won a state sectional championship – in any sport, male or female.

“We’re so fired up right now,” said Smith, who swam the butterfly leg of the winning 200-yard medley relay to start Monday’s meet. “We have some great energy on this team, and we’re really motivated. And knowing we have the chance to make history is going to be a reason for us to be more motivated.”

After Matt Zielinski, Dylan Cappuccio, Smith and Kaden Jason cruised to victory in 1:52.20, and the team of Gareth Aguilar, Joseph Coleman, Jordan Burton and Tyler Grant took second in the medley, the Bengals were up by 10 points, and they simply increased the margin from there.

“Max (Lares) and Matt will be hyping us before Wednesday’s meet, just like they did today, and we’re going to be ready to go,” said Cappuccio, who later won the 200-yard individual medley in 2:20.14, as well as the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:12.19. “This is a dream becoming reality for us, and it’s insane. We’re very excited about the opportunity to win a section title.”

Michael Koser (:24.55) and Jason took the top two spots in the 50-yard freestyle to push the Bengals’ lead to 42-20 after four events, before Zielinski, Burton and Coleman grabbed second, third and fourth, respectively, in the 100-yard butterfly to give Barnegat nine more points, and Koser and Aguilar took second and third in the 100-yard freestyle to make it 59-35 going into the last five events.

Colby Pearson then won the 500-yard freestyle in 5:34 to all but seal the victory. Koser, Aguilar, Pearson and Jason won the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1:41.35 before Zielinski won the 100-yard backstroke in 1:05.06, and Smith followed with a tie for second to extend the lead to 88.5-51.5.

“We were ready to do what we had to do today,” Smith said. “We had the music playing on the bus coming over to the Island. We were relaxed. And to swim this well in such a big meet was incredible. But now we’re looking forward to Wednesday. We know Oakcrest is a good team, and it’s going to be a good meet. But we’ve accomplished a lot this season, so we want to keep it all going.”

Cappuccio said his teammates’ love for swimming and each other will fuel them against the Falcons.

“We have a lot of heart on this team,” he said. “We’re all friends here, and we compete for each other. We love being around each other and we love competing together, and that’s what it’s going to be about when we swim against Oakcrest. Everybody’s in it for the team.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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