St. Francis Swim Team Edges Haven Beach for Fourth Straight LBI Crown

Aug 22, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy The St. Francis Community Center swim team shows how many times in a row it has won the LBI Swim Club Championships after capturing their fourth straight title on Aug. 16.

When Aidan McInerney started swimming with the St. Francis Community Center team eight years ago, things were quite a bit different than they are today.

“We had two different coaches when I first started, and we had fun,” said McInerney, who along with teammates Jackson Hughes, Elyse Donohue and Kyle Smith cruised to the 16-and-under freestyle relay victory to cap the Sharks’ fourth straight Long Beach Island Swim Club Championships on Aug. 16.

“When Coach (Emily) Cherry took over the team, she wanted to win everything and we became a really competitive team. She still wants us to have fun. But she wants to win, too. And that’s made us want to win.”

Winning the LBI title for a fifth time in seven years wasn’t an easy task, for sure. St. Francis needed every bit of a top-notch effort and its 466 points to overcome the home squad from Haven Beach Club, which tallied 459.

“I’ve been with the team for five years and we’ve all really grown in our confidence,” said Danielle Silverman, who swam the backstroke leg in front of McInerney, Smith and Hughes on the winning 16-and-under medley relay which finished off a 96-point run through the first five events and put the Sharks in the lead to stay. “We believe in ourselves and our abilities. Coach Cherry really helped us find our places on the team and challenges us to keep getting better.”

Following the individual butterfly events, St. Francis held a three-point lead over the Hurricanes, as Brant Beach Yacht Club, Barnegat Light Yacht Club and Surf City Yacht Club started slipping farther behind the frontrunners. Coming out of the individual backstroke events, that lead was a point.

The Sharks’ breaststroke swimmers pushed the margin to five points, 302-297, and the freestylers – behind first-place efforts from Matthew Barnicle and Cloe Laverty at 8-and-under, another first-place finish from Kenny Barnicle at 10-and-under, and Hughes’ fast-paced win at 16-and-under – kept the five-point spread heading into the last batch of relays.

“Our second meet with Haven Beach was postponed, so we just raced them a couple of days ago and won by only three points,” Cherry said. “We knew it would be a close meet. We expected it to be neck and neck the whole way.”

Once the free relays were underway, the Sharks’ youngsters all but clinched the title, as Ava Fields, Hannah Todd, Laverty and Carson Radney cruised to victory at 8-and-under, followed by a win from the 10-and-under crew of Francesca Fields, Cole Radney, Austin Silverman and Kenny Barnicle.

“Our younger groups really mattered today,” McInerney said. “When you have the 8s, 10s and 12s winning almost every race, you can’t lose. They really did a great job for us, and what’s better is they're the future of the team.”

Up by nine points with three relays left meant HBC had to come up with first-place sweeps the rest of the way and hope St. Francis would fall apart.

The Hurricanes received victories from the 12-and-under crew of Jack Moran, Liliana Davis, Jack Greenleaf and Sean Kahl and the 14-and-under squad of Ryan Dean, Sean Walsh, Bryan Kahl and Liam Huy, but it wasn’t enough, as the St. Francis relays finished right behind them, keeping the margin of separation at five points going into the final event.

With both 16-and-under teams within an arm’s length of each other into the final leg, Smith outraced HBC’s Gregory Lee to seal the Sharks’ fourth straight championship. BBYC finished third in the team standings with 360 points, followed by BLYC with 338 and SCYC with 228.

“Every race was close throughout this meet, and that’s what it’s about, having a competitive meet with all the kids giving their best,” Cherry said. “And every kid, from every team, did great today. Everything was really positive and upbeat, and that’s exactly the way the summer swim season should end.”

— David Biggy

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