St. Francis Swim Team Edges Haven Beach Club in LBI Championship Meet

By DAVID BIGGY | Aug 23, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

When Jackson Hughes pushed off the wall for the final leg of the 14-and-under freestyle relay, he had no idea of the importance of those 25 yards. But after he outraced the Haven Beach Club swimmer in the next lane, the St. Francis Community Center anchorman touched the wall in first place and secured the Sharks’ third championship in a row.

“It looked like HBC was going to win that race, but I just tried my hardest to keep us close,” said Hughes, after he helped coach Emily Cherry’s St. Francis squad snag the victory in the LBI Swim Club Championships on Aug. 17. “Coach Cherry is always telling me what I’m doing wrong, but I guess I didn’t do anything wrong in that race. That was crazy.”

St. Francis didn’t do much wrong throughout the championship meet at Haven Beach Club. What started with a victory by the 8-and-under medley relay of Erynn McInerney, Ava Fields, Matthew Barnicle and Killian Todd ended with a victory by the 16-and-under freestyle relay of Kyle Smith, Aidan McInerney, Pepper Kolman and Patric Hyland.

“Coach Cherry told us before the race we had to kill it,” said Smith, who set the tone on the first leg of the final relay. “We had a job to do, and the goal was to just swim as fast as we could. We didn’t know what the score was at that point. We just did what our coach told us.”

With Haven Beach Club celebrating its 70th anniversary this summer, it was only appropriate that the Hurricanes were neck and neck with SFCC the entire meet. But in the end, the Sharks swam away with the title, tallying 450 points to HBC’s 440.

“We had a new scoring format for this year’s meet, with points being scored for the first two heats of each individual event,” said Cherry, whose squad first won the title in 2013 before winning the past three. “And with the new system, my assistant and I had to alter our plans on how we approached each race and which swimmers we would use for the individual events. We figured it would be a close meet.”

And it was a lot closer than the Sharks wanted, for sure. Following the medley relays, St. Francis and Haven Beach were tied at 94-94, but with butterfly victories by Madilyn Boyd, Kenny Barnicle, Miranda Heimowitz, Brooke Boyd, Hughes, Smith and Aidan McInerney, St. Francis pushed ahead, 160-153. SFCC increased its lead to nine points, 226-217, behind backstroke wins from Matthew Barnicle, Austin Silverman, Amanda Donohue, Danielle Silverman, Kolman and Megan Misurelli.

However, during the breaststroke races, the Hurricanes started closing the gap on the strength of victories from Max Levin, Claudia Primus, Sean Walsh, Anna Malandro and Ben Addiego. Carson Francisco and Aidan McInerney swept the 16-and-under breaststroke to keep the Sharks slightly ahead, 289-285, heading into the individual freestyle races. But that’s when things got hair-raising for Cherry.

“We kept doing score checks, and we knew where we stood,” she said. “Our butterfly swimmers got us the lead, and we needed it. But HBC’s a really good team, so we knew it wasn’t over going into the freestyle. We had to rely on our older kids in that event.”

Haven Beach received victories from Vincent D’Amico, Luka Vecchione and Ella D’Amico before Rex Cattone won the first heat of the 12-and-under free and Haley Skimmons swiped the top spot of the second heat to send the Hurricanes into the lead by a point, 328-327. The lead didn’t last long, as St. Francis 14-and-under swimmers Tyler Grant and Austin Cappuccio finished third and second, respectively, during their freestyle heats to push the Sharks back out in front. Hyland and Misurrelli then swept the 16-and-under free to make it a four-point margin, 354-350.

After Ava Fields, Madilyn Boyd, Oscar Haspel and Todd placed second in the 8-and-under free relay to make it a six-point gap, Francesca Fields, Lukas Davis, Alex Saldana and Kenny Barnicle added to the lead with a win in the 10-and-under free relay. HBC’s Summer Davis, Skimmons, Sean Walsh and Cattone won the 12-and-under free relay to cut the lead back to six, but the Hurricanes fell short.

“We have a lot of good individual swimmers, but it’s all about the team for us,” Smith said. “We have such great kids on this team, and all of them have great attitudes. We have fun, but we work hard, too. And that’s a reflection of Coach Cherry. She pours her heart into coaching us, and we follow her lead.”

And while she’s quick to give credit to the swimmers and assistant Ian Roth, Cherry’s track record speaks volumes – the Sharks have won four championships during her six seasons as coach.

“I don’t talk about myself, but I guess I can (take) some of the credit,” she said with a shrug and humble smile. “But really, it’s all about everybody. Yeah, our relays clinched the championship today. But if it weren’t for the kids who placed second, third and fourth in the individual events, we wouldn’t have been in the position to have our relays clinch anything. We just have a great group of kids who want to do their best, and that’s all I want from them.”

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary Jo O'Neill | Aug 26, 2017 09:52

It was nice that St. Francis and Haven Beach did so well and that you recognized them for it. My problem is that you didn't recognize any of the other swimmers that swam so hard and won their events. There were three other teams with no recognition.

Thank you, Mary Jo O'Neill

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