I missed out on the Northern Highlands-Ramapo girls and Demarest-Northern Highlands boys meet yesterday, but it wasn’t my decision. I had to work the desk last night and compile the results from every sport Monday night so they can run in Tuesday’s paper. I did get Highlands coach Tom Viscardi on the phone, though, and he gave me the recap of his two meets.
But Highlands wasn’t the only team in action Monday night. The Kinnelon girls advanced to their third straight sectional title, the Demarest and Tenafly boys also punched their tickets to the sectional final, and the Ridgewood boys picked up a first-round state tourney win to advance to the sectional semifinals.
Now, I hate calling these teams “losers” today, because all five of these teams — the Wayne Hills, Ramapo and River Dell/Westwood girls and Northern Highlands and DePaul boys — had great years and each had their moment in the spotlight at various times this year. But all five teams’ seasons ended Monday night, but I believe we’ll be seeing a few of those individual swimmers down at the state Meet of Champions later this year.
Here’s a breakdown of Monday’s action, with some added commentary on each team.
North 1, Public B Semifinals
NORTHERN HIGHLANDS 105, RAMAPO 65 – The other day I started coming up with Swimmer of the Year candidates. Of course, there’s still time left in the season, but Wayne Valley’s Meaghan O’Donnell is definitely worthy, Demarest’s Christina Paspalas is in the conversation, Ramapo’s two.. maybe even three girls.. in Lena DiPrizito, Katie Murphy and Julia Perry have all had outstanding years, as has Kinnelon’s Abby Fisher. And then I realized that the top two teams in North Jersey — IHA and Northern Highlands — are more of a product of their unparalleled depth more so than their individual talent. Viscardi even said, “We’re never gonna be that team that relies on one or two girls. We swim as a team and we win as a team.”
Madeline Wolf would probably be the Highlanders’ Swimmer of the Year nominee (Sara Nestrowitz probably for IHA), but girls like Maggie McElwain, Caitlin Grady, Katie Ogden, Madison Cullinan, Caitlyn Bach, Marissa Lauber, Genevieve Donahue, Paulina Lengel, Isabella Biagioli (and there’s more, too) are what makes Highlands so dangerous at the state level. Collectively, they make Highlands so tough to beat, which Ramapo found out firsthand Monday night. “All of them want to contribute,” Viscardi said. “They all want to do their part. Every kid wants to chip in and compete.”
In the North 1, Public B semifinals, Highlands came away with a 40-point victory to earn a return trip to the sectional final (and yet another meeting with nemesis Mountain Lakes), highlighted by Wolf’s two individual event wins in the 200 freestyle (2:03.05) and 100 freestyle (55.75) and Grady’s win in the 100 breast stroke (1:12.47), beating Bergen County champion, Lena DiPrizito. Perhaps the most impressive win of the day, though, came from Highlands’ 200 freestyle relay team — Grady, Ogden, Bach and Wolf — which beat the Big Four of Ramapo — Madison Nowak, Perry, Murphy and DiPrizito — with a time of 1:45.70.
“The girls are very excited,” Viscardi said. “They’ve been kind of working to get back to this point. We have some extra confidence knowing we beat them [Mountain Lakes] last year and our girls are ready for the challenge and excited about the opportunity.”
Viscardi said a lot of the Highlands’ swimmers are rounding into form at exactly the right time. He said Wolf is “a big piece to what we do and seems to step up in big meet situations” and that Grady’s win in the 100 Breast “will go a long way for her and her confidence going into Thursday.”
“The girls are definitely fired up,” Viscardi added. “When they watch their teammates have success, they all feed off that. Everyone wants to do their part. I would say our senior veterans started off at a solid point, and they’ve been building and building as the season’s gone on. I attribute that to them knowing what’s important. They know when they need to pick it up and right now… all of them are hitting their best times. We have a lot of club swimmers, but I think the high school season really means a lot to them. I think finishing strong is important to them.”
Monday, the turning point came in the 100 Freestyle, when Wolf and Ogden went 1-2. Viscardi also said getting a 1-2 out of Wolf and McElwain in the 200 Freestyle was big, too. “Maddie and Maggie gave us some cushion after the 200 free,” Viscardi said. “And when Maddie and Katie took 1-2 in the 100 free, that was the turning point of the meet. … I was actually a little concerned with how this meet would affect the girls’ confidence, knowing we might lose some races because Ramapo has some great swimmers. I went into it saying ‘Hey, the most important thing is to win the meet. Going 2-3-4 is worth more than first place anyway, so go out and do your job and let’s get ready for Thursday.’ ”
North 2, Public B Semifinals
KINNELON 112, SUMMIT 58 — Kinnelon cruised Monday night to its third consecutive sectional final, finishing first in all 11 events. Mackenzie Heffernan won the 200 freestyle (2:01.14) and 100 butterfly (1:00.66), Meghan Thompson won both sprints — the 50 freestyle (25.33) and 100 freestyle (56.67) — and UNC-bound Abby Fisher won the 200 IM (2:15.23) and 100 breast stroke (1:08.71). Fisher’s 100 Breast would have been tops at this year’s Bergen Meet of Champions, by the way. Nicole Caci won the 500 freestyle at 5:39.53 and Christina Cirillo won the 100 back stroke at 1:04.83. The Colts will now await the winner of No. 2 Mendham/No. 3 New Providence. Last year, Kinnelon lost to Haddonfield by a mere four points in the Public B state semifinals, and when I talked to Fisher earlier this year, advancing one step further — to the state final — was something the Colts really wanted this year. It’s definitely possible, too.
Quick note: If Kinnelon and Northern Highlands both capture sectional titles, it’s unlikely they would face each other in the state semifinals. Since Kinnelon is second in power points and Northern Highlands is fourth, the Colts would would get No. 3 Mainland and the Highlanders would get No. 1 Chatham. Again, that’s assuming all No. 1 seeds win sectional championships. Imagine a Highlands-Kinnelon Public B final? Sign me up for that.
North 1, Public B Semifinals
MOUNTAIN LAKES 120, WAYNE HILLS 50 — Wayne Hills coach Mike Shale knew what he and his team were up against in Mountain Lakes on Monday, and the season-ending loss in the sectional semifinals doesn’t diminish all the good the Pats did this year. I was there for the Passaic County title — Hills’ fourth county title in a row. I saw the first half of what ended up being an epic battle with Fair Lawn at the Big North league meet… And just last week, I saw Hills advance to Monday’s sectional semifinals with a first-round state win over Sparta.
I saw the start of what looks like a very promising career for Sam Kauffman, who was Hills’ only individual event winner Monday with her first-place finish in the 100 Back (1:03.21). I saw coach Mike Shale pick up his first-ever state tournament win. I saw Ilana Kleinfeld finish her career with four straight county titles and become a senior leader on a team that overcame some notable early-season injuries. Remember, Hills’ lost Daria Vandermay and Samantha Zarro to season-ending injuries last fall and had to replace the graduated Stephanie Urresty — a 14-time first-place medalist at the county championships. Sisters Emma and Gabi Cancel (who I can’t tell apart for some reason) helped fill those holes and will both be back next year… as will Victoria Mayer, a sophomore who plans to return to club swimming this off-season in hopes of lowering her times next winter. Liz Gokhman and Mary Kate Barone, two swimmers who always seemed to be picking up important points for Hills, will also be returning next year. So, as good as 2012-2013 was for Wayne Hills, things could be even better next season.
North 1, Public A Quarterfinals
WESTFIELD 129, RIVER DELL/WESTWOOD 41 — Well, this one went pretty much as expected, as River Dell/Westwood ran into the state’s No. 1 team in Westfield. And even though RD-W lost out on the division title this year to Pascack Regional, there were still some highlights. For one, RD-W was the first and only team to defeat Fair Lawn in a dual meet this year, doing so in the sectional “Swim-Off” meet to earn the No. 8 seed. Secondly, Maddy Toohey won the division title this year in the 50 Free and took second in the 100 Free, Gabby Denicola won the division title in the 500 Free (also took third in the 100 Fly) — and teammate Rebecca Bronfeld took third and Emily Reynolds took second in the division in the 200 IM, while Julia Lombardi took fifth. The 400 Free Relay team of Reynolds, Denicola, Toohey and Sophie Scholes also won the division title last month, as River Dell/Westwood took second to Pascack Regional, 312-287.
North 1, Public B Semifinals
DEMAREST 96, NORTHERN HIGHLANDS 74 – I had planned on calling Demarest coach Mike Ives last night to get the in-depth recap on this one, but things got incredibly busy in the office last night and then it got too late. Viscardi talked to me briefly about it, though, and how talented Demarest is. I’m looking forward to seeing No. 1 Demarest vs. No. 2 Tenafly in Thursday’s sectional final in a rematch of an earlier regular season meet, which Demarest won, 97-73. I believe that meet will take place right after the Highlands girls take on Mountain Lakes at Passaic Tech. Terry Li gets a lot of the attention for Demarest, and rightfully so, he’s that good… but it’s impossible to lead Public B in power points without a serious supporting cast. With 4,175 power points, the Norsemen are actually the favorite to win the state title this year (next closest is Princeton, with 4,036.5). John Kilduff won the 200 IM on Monday (2:07.97), Roy An took first in the 50 freestyle (23.62), Dan Oh won the 100 butterfly (58.94), Andrew Ro took first in the 100 backstroke (59.28), Li won the 100 breast stroke (1:00.38), Luke Rutigliano — along with Ro, Li and Kilduff — won the 200 Medley Relay at 1:42.37. That’s six reasons right there why Demarest is where it’s at right now. And the best might be yet to come.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, it was the end of the road for Northern Highlands, after an epic come-from-behind win over Ramapo a few days ago. They knew it was a long shot to upset Demarest on Monday, but they put up a fight and battled. Junior Max Distler won another two events — the 200 freestyle (1:57.90) and 500 freestyle (5:05.76) — and Alex Baker took first in the 100 freestyle (53.07). The 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams also both took first place, with Distler, Baker, Jad Groome — one of the heroes vs. Ramapo — and Mike Keenan making up both winning squads. Viscardi said he was happy that his team rallied from behind last week to earn a spot in Monday’s semifinals. I expect to see some of you Highlands boys at Thursday’s girls meet after they came and supported you guys last week vs. ‘Po.
North 1, Public B Semifinals
TENAFLY 99, MOUNTAIN LAKES 71 — No. 2 Tenafly put forth a dominant performance Monday night, winning nine of the 11 events — led by Jin Roh, Amit Bachar, Kevin Guo and Greg Spiropoulos. Roh won two events, Bachar won two events, Guo won the 100 Free and Spiropoulos won the 100 Breast. You have to imagine Tenafly is excited to get a second crack at Demarest after falling to them earlier this season. They took third at the Bergen County meet, too, behind Bergen Catholic and Demarest. Pretty sure those are Tenafly’s only two dual meet losses this year — to BC and Demarest. Do they have enough to take down powerhouse Demarest on Thursday?
North 1, Public A Quarterfinals
RIDGEWOOD 97, MONTCLAIR 73 — Because of the snowstorm, No. 4 Ridgewood’s first-round matchup with No. 5 Montclair was postponed until Monday, but the layoff didn’t affect the Maroons. Evan Fischer won two individual events — the 200 Freestyle (1:53.00) and 100 breast stroke (1:04.98) — and teammate Dante Cosentino won the 500 freestyle at 5:36.41. The only other individual event Ridgewood won was in the 200 freestyle relay with Tim Daly, Jack Bragg, John Park and John Sheridan, clocking in with a time of 1:40.92. The Maroons will likely take on top-seeded Westfield in the sectional semifinals. The winner of that will face No. 2 Millburn, who defeated Randolph Monday, in the sectional final.
Non-Public, North A Quarterfinals
SETON HALL PREP 108, DePAUL 62 – It was a tough draw for the Spartans, going up against state-power and top-seeded Seton Hall Prep, and it was the end of the road for No. 8 DePaul on Monday. Still, this year’s Spartan squad did something no team in school history had done… and that was win a Passaic County championship. On Monday, Aidan Steinberg won the 200 freestyle (1:53.69), Logan Amodio won the 100 butterfly (56.84) and Matt Delaporte earned two first-place finishes, in the 500 freestyle (5:11.22) and 100 breast stroke (1:02.35). I remember Delaporte telling me how they were motivated last month by the empty swimming banner with no county titles on it. Delaporte, Amodio and Steinberg were three key pieces to finally ending that title drought.
What’s going on with the other Non-Publics? The IHA girls must be bored, since they earned a bye right into the North, Non-Public A sectional final. They won’t be swimming for a few more days, but then two wins and they’re state champs. And the Bergen Catholic, Don Bosco and Paramus Catholic boys are all, I think, still alive. They were scheduled to swim on Monday, but I never received any results. BC coach Jason Schlereth is good with sending in scores, so I doubt BC swam yesterday against Paramus Catholic. Bosco was scheduled to face St. Peter’s Prep on Monday, but I didn’t see any result anywhere.