Passaic Tech is the king of Passaic County by Sean Farrell of The Record
WAYNE – Jake DeMarco never imagined this.
Everything looked so much different at Passaic Tech when he enrolled a few years ago.
No tradition. No championships. No record board.
It wasn’t close to the swimming power it’s become. Oh, how quickly things change.
DeMarco and his fellow seniors made history on Saturday as the second group to go undefeated at the Passaic County meet. Passaic Tech easily won its fourth straight title, an unprecedented tournament feat for a boys team. The senior from West Milford swam on their record-breaking 200 freestyle relay team, but by then it wasn’t even close.
“I didn’t see this coming,” DeMarco said. “Freshman year, I was just surprised we won. Then we just kept building and building. It’s amazing to have four trophies.”
Any question about the Passaic Tech dynasty is gone.
Though the Bulldogs are known for depth, the latest championship came from an overpowering display of first-place times and record-setting performances. The host team ended the day with 459 points and outscored runner-up Wayne Valley by more than 100.
“It’s officially a dynasty,” coach Denise Aronson said. “They’re all great kids who all get along. They just created a great culture for the freshmen coming up to join right in. I’m happy for them to go out on a winning note and hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Aronson had so many lean years after starting the program that her career record is still well under .500 even after three years in a row with double-digit wins. But it all turned around with a senior class that’s gone 48-6 and helped build an insurmountable lead on Saturday. Senior Brandon Matos repeated as the 200 IM champion and Laice Baloush followed it up with his first title in the butterfly. Seven of 11 events went their way, including all three relays, where seniors Joe Malicki and Diego Varona pitched in.
Two other accomplished seniors who walked away with more gold were Wayne Valley’s Evan Custance and DePaul’s Brandon Miller. Custance kept his perfect record in the 200 and 500 freestyles and became the first Passaic County swimmer to win four years in a row in two individual events. The eight championships of his own is tied for the most ever, and gives him one more than Miller, a two-time champion again this year.
“Evan has an incredible work ethic,” coach Joanne Ciriello said. “He’s just constantly striving to be the best swimmer that he can be.”
On yet another freezing day in North Jersey, DeMarco said Passaic Tech’s work ethic made the difference.
The Bulldogs were in the pool on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, many with shivering lips in water a few degrees colder than normal.
On Saturday, it paid off.
“You have to give it to Coach Aronson,” DeMarco said. “Some days, we would not want to go in the water because it was freezing. She would say, ‘then go home’. So we’d stay and practice and she’d work us. She is on top of us because we’re getting another [state] ring.”
Passaic County champions
200 medley relay: Passaic Tech (1:43.60). 200 freestyle: Evan Custance, Wayne Valley (1:45.17). 200 IM: Brandon Matos, Passaic Tech (2:05.82). 50 freestyle:Brandon Miller, DePaul (22.06). 100 fly: Laice Baloush, Passaic Tech (56.86). 100 freestyle: Daljin Castro, Passaic Tech (49.98). 500 freestyle: Evan Custance, Wayne Valley (4:50.26). 200 freestyle relay: Passaic Tech (1:31.42). 100 backstroke:Brandon Miller, DePaul (53.18). 100 breaststroke: Aman Nitro, Passaic Tech (3:27.32). 400 freestyle relay: Passaic Tech (3:27.32).