T.R. North Ends Southern Girls Swim Team’s Season in Sectional Quarterfinals

By DAVID BIGGY | Feb 13, 2019

Prior to the Southern Regional girls swim team state tournament meet on Feb. 5, Jacquelyn Kilcommons had quite an exciting weekend. Not only did she lead the way in helping the 200-yard medley relay grab the 12th spot in the Shore Conference Championships, she later reset her school record in the 100-yard backstroke.

“Obviously, I’ve been trying to break it for four years. And I was really close to getting it last year,” said the senior swimmer. “Records are meant to be broken. It was really special to break it the first time at the Ocean County Championships, and then do it again at the Shore Conference meet. Once you break a record the first time, you just try to set the bar a little higher.”

Against Lenape in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group A tournament, Kilcommons didn’t break any records. But she did help set the tone again with a powerful first leg of the 200 medley relay, setting up Mia Amirr, Kaylyn Iusan and classmate Hannah Skimmons to cruise to victory in 1:59.60. From there, the Rams cruised to a 102-68 win.

“Going into this week, you never know which one might be your last meet,” Skimmons said. “You just want to work your hardest and whatever is meant to be, is what will be. But today everybody put everything out there, and we advanced.”

After Phoebe Sprague, Mya Pierson and Summer Davis delivered first-, second- and third-place points in the 200-yard freestyle, giving the Rams an early 23-7 advantage, Southern simply continued to use its depth to increase the margin. Olivia Auge, Iusan and Abbey Mower swiped second, third and fourth in the 200-yard individual medley, before Abigail Malandro and Grace Sprague added first- and third-place points in the 50-yard freestyle.

Amirr, Auge and Veronica Ruoff took second, third and fourth in the 100-yard butterfly. Malandro, Kilcommons and Iusan followed suit in the same order during the 100-yard freestyle, making it a 61-33 Southern lead – insurmountable, with only five events to go.

The Rams (8-3) dropped the hammer even harder during the 200-yard freestyle relay, as Skimmons, Davis, Auge and Malandro cruised to a first-place time of 1:47.42, and the crew of Pierson, Jillian Middleton, Jessica Paulillo and Phoebe Sprague swiped second place in 1:52.10. Kilcommons then led a 2-3-4 parade, followed by Ruoff and Kady Patterson, in the 100 backstroke.

After Amirr won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:15.51 – ahead of third-place teammate Hallie Gallagher – Middleton, Brooke Boyd, Nathalie Rodriguez and Erin Barrett finished off the winning effort by taking second in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

“We were confident coming into the meet,” Kilcommons said. “But we know not to be too confident, because anything can happen at this point of the season. We came in with a positive outlook, did our best, and it worked out.”

Unfortunately, the fifth-seeded Rams met Shore Conference Class A South rival and fourth-seeded Toms River North in the quarterfinals on Feb. 7 and had their season ended in a 100-70 loss. Southern mustered two victories during the meet – Phoebe Sprague won the 500 free in 5:40.50, and Skimmons, Auge, Pierson and Malandro won the 200 free relay in 1:46.31.

Regardless of the outcome in the quarterfinal, Skimmons was content knowing the season has been everything she expected it would be when the team first practiced in November.

“We definitely rose to another level,” she said. “We accomplished a lot. We power-pointed higher. We had some relays that had times right behind some of the record-holding relays. We had some swimmers breaking records and personal bests throughout the season. Everybody just worked really hard.

“As seniors, we have a lot of confidence in the girls coming up behind us. This team is going to keep getting stronger. We can look at the freshmen now and see what they have inside them, all that motivation and positive energy. They’re all willing to work really hard to reach their goals.”

Narrow Loss Ends Boys Team’s Season

As for goals, the main one going into this season for the Southern boys was to still be swimming during the first week of February once the state tournament arrived. First-year head coach Patrick Craig’s Rams did one better.

“To have enough power points and be seeded high enough to host a state tournament meet is more than I expected,” Craig said, after his squad dropped an 87-83 contest to Washington Township following the girls’ meet on Feb. 5. “This season has been better than I thought it would be, and I’m really proud of these guys.”

Southern fell behind by six points early on, but Aidan McInerney’s victory in 2:15.13 during the 200 IM, followed by a first-place time of 22.73 seconds by Jackson Hughes in the 50 freestyle, helped the Rams tie the clash between the No. 6 and 7 seeds at 31 apiece a third of the way through the meet.

The Minutemen edged ahead during the 100 fly and 100 free, but freshman Kristian Werner’s first-place time of 5:24.61, followed by Russell Hill’s third-place finish, in the 500 free, knotted the score, 55-55. However, Washington pushed the lead to seven points during the next two events, and Southern needed something big to have a shot at winning with two events left.

McInerney easily won the 100 breaststroke in 1:07.83, but it was Austin Widmer’s final kick during the last 20 yards that provided the Rams with their chance, as he pulled off a second-place time of 1:11.58 to cut the lead to just two points, 79-77, going into the final event. Unfortunately, the 400 free relay team of Tim English, Cody Snow, Werner and Hughes gradually fell behind the Minutemen’s top squad during the first few legs of the race and placed second, ending the Rams’ season at 5-5.

“Our guys barely got in last year,” Craig said. “So to have them host a home meet, and for it to come down to the last race – only to lose by four points – I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

“The seniors did a great job of carrying a big load on their shoulders. They didn’t know what to expect coming into this season.

“And I can’t thank them enough!”

Fortunately, Southern has a lot of younger swimmers still in the tank. Craig expects his squad to be improved next season.

“We had huge junior and freshmen classes, and the experiences they had this season are going to help them for next season,” he said. “We had some freshmen who really surprised us, and that’s fantastic as we look to build for next year. I’m confident we can have better numbers for next year, too.

“A lot of kids are apprehensive when a new coach comes in. So for us to have a winning season, and host a home state meet, that says a lot for us right now.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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