Barnegat Boys Swim Team Ready to Go After State Sectional Crown

Jan 30, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

For the past four years, Dylan Cappuccio has made the St. Francis Community Center his home away from home from the beginning of November through the first week of February. And while he and the other seniors on the Barnegat High School boys swim team were a bit sad to be competing in their last regular-season home meet on Jan. 23, they also knew it wasn’t going to be the last one in their home pool.

That meet won’t occur until the Bengals advance through the semifinals – the tentative date is Monday, Feb. 11 – and into the NJSIAA South Jersey Group C championship meet.

“We’ve been waiting for the state tournament since last year’s section final, when we lost to Oakcrest,” Cappuccio said after the Bengals lost, 116-54, to high-powered Manasquan. “It’s been such a bitter taste for us the past year. Our minds all season have been set on getting back to the section final and winning it. We keep saying this is our best year yet, and I really believe in my heart we can do it.”

Of course, head coach Emily Cherry won’t ever count those chickens until they’ve arrived on the scene, even though she’s as confident as her swimmers.

“I’m feeling really good about it,” she said. “When I saw the schedule and that Manasquan was our last meet before the state tournament, I was glad. This was going to be our biggest meet of the season against really good competition, and I told them before today’s meet that places didn’t matter as much and I just wanted them to swim their butts off, and they did. Now they’re ready for the state tournament.”

Against the Warriors, not a single Barnegat individual or relay won a race – they managed to snag a half-dozen seconds – but the Bengals’ best kept pace fairly well against the more dominant opponent.

In the 200-yard medley relay, Kyle Smith, Cappuccio, Gareth Aguilar and Kaden Jason swiped the second spot in 1:49.47 before Cappuccio came back two events later for the 200-yard individual medley and took third in 2:15.58, and Michael Koser snagged second in the always-tight 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.98 seconds.

After Smith managed a third-place time of :58.79 in the 100-yard butterfly, Koser returned for the 100-yard freestyle and grabbed second in :54.70. Josh Hutton was right behind Koser in third place with a time of :55.38, and Jason swiped fourth in :56.40 for the only event in which Barnegat swimmers outscored Manasquan.

Austin Cappuccio ended up third in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:50.94, and the 200-yard freestyle relay crew of Koser, Joe Coleman, Hutton and Jason grabbed second in 1:39.02 before Dylan Cappuccio scored second-place points with a time of 1:09.46 in the 100-yard breaststroke.

The Bengals finished strong in the 400-yard freestyle relay, when Koser, Hutton, Aguilar and Smith grabbed second in 3:46.09, followed by a third-place effort in 3:52.19 from Austin Cappuccio, Andrew Ohr, Alex Kinder and Ethan Sackett.

“Our guys really had to work hard tonight,” Cherry said. “And it was the best kind of meet to have as we get our minds set for the state tournament. Now they really have to get after it. There are no easy wins in the state tournament. We can be confident but not too confident, because nothing’s guaranteed. They still have to swim the meets.”

Seeding for the upcoming sectional tourney was scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 31. The Bengals (9-1) may be the top seed for South Group C, with Cedar Creek (8-0) – last year’s third seed behind Barnegat, which knocked off the Pirates in the semifinals – securing the second position after beating Oakcrest last week.

But however the seeds shake out, Cappuccio says the Bengals are ready to raise the bar higher for Barnegat High School, which has yet to have a team win a state sectional championship in any sport, male or female.

“We’re very confident and excited for the state tournament,” he said. “We’ve been swimming well the entire season, and we talk about it all the time. We want that section title. Definitely, we have to take care of business, but we’re capable of winning that first state sectional title, and we’re really fired up.”

— David Biggy

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