Barnegat Boys Swim Team Routs Central Regional as It Preps for State Tournament

Jan 31, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

With a whole crew of returning swimmers back in the pool, the Barnegat High School boys team started the season knowing it had a really strong chance of making the NJSIAA South Jersey Group C tournament for a fourth straight year. On Jan. 29, just days before seeding was scheduled to occur, the Bengals looked not only prepared for the sectional tourney, but also a contender to win it.

“We’re definitely ready,” said Matt Zielinski, one of two seniors on the squad, which routed Central Regional, 112-58, at St. Francis Aquatic Center. “We’re going all in, with a lot of hype and determination, and we’re going to try to go as far as we can.”

Going far just might be in the cards this year for the Bengals. Perennial powerhouse Haddonfield and neighboring Haddon Heights were shifted to a new section by the NJSIAA during the offseason. They were the top two seeds in last year’s sectional tourney, while Oakcrest was third and Barnegat fourth. The Bengals reached the semifinals before getting knocked off by Haddonfield.

Of the top seven seeds from last year, only Oakcrest; Cedar Creek, which Barnegat defeated in the quarterfinals; and Schalick, which lost to Haddon Heights in the semis, remain in the section. Translation: At 9-1-1 and with a solid amount of power points, Barnegat may be one of the top two seeds this time, which could result in a bye through the quarterfinals.

Either way, the Bengals have their eyes set on a possible section title, and they made winning look easy against the Golden Eagles.

After Gareth Aguilar, Dylan Cappuccio, Kaden Jason and Zielinski won the 200-yard medley relay in 1:53.03, Cappuccio returned a short time later to win the 200-yard individual medley in 2:20.53, and Jason snatched the 50-yard freestyle in 24.89 seconds. With Barnegat leading, 42-20, after the intermission, Zielinski won the 100-yard butterfly in 1:01.60, before Gareth Aguilar (:56.48) and Michael Koser (:57.27) finished second and third in the 100-yard freestyle to put the Bengals ahead for good.

“We have a lot of depth this season,” Zielinski said. “We’ve worked really hard so far, and right now we’re fine-tuning little things. We just get in the pool and race our hearts out.”

Colby Pearson cruised to victory in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:47.63, before Jason, Aguilar, Pearson and Kosar easily won the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1:41.50. Cappuccio capped the individual events with a win in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:11.32, and Zielinski, Kosar, Aguilar and Pearson finished off Central with a time of 3:51.06 in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

With it being Senior Night, Zielinski and his teammates got the chance to toss head coach Emily Cherry into the pool following the victory.

“Swimming here is like a second home to me,” he said. “And this is my second family. I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything.”

As part of the girls’ senior group, Anna Sackett helped toss head coach Rebecca Kane into the pool as well, even though they weren’t celebrating a team victory – Central won the girls’ meet, 101-69.

“Our coaches are awesome,” Sackett said. “They’re tough, but everyone on the team loves them. They’ve really helped us a lot.”

While Sackett was the lone winner for the Bengals on Monday, snaring the top spot in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:18.40, she and her teammates continued to improve. The Bengals have won several meets this season, their last one coming in a 96-74 victory over Toms River East on Jan. 11.

“We’re absolutely a better team this year than last year,” said Sackett, who has been on the squad for three seasons after moving to Barnegat from Florida prior to her sophomore year. “We were super excited about this season, and the biggest part of it was our attitude. The boys’ success of the past few years has definitely helped us get better. The confidence and determination carries over.”

And it’s true, most swimming programs have a fairly tight group of athletes. They practice and travel together, compete alongside each other, and spend a lot of time outside the pool with one another. Sackett said she’s enjoyed that camaraderie.

“The support each team gives the other is amazing,” she said. “We’re close. We’re here for each other. We don’t have any cliques or anything like that. We’re like a large family of brothers and sisters.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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