Passaic Tech wins first county championship by Sean Farrell of The Record
WAYNE – The moment was just like Mary Pilkington had imagined.
Hearing chants of “P-C-T-I” as she raised the trophy high for everyone to see was an indescribable feeling that left her at a loss for words.
One can now be linked to her team forever. “Champion”.
Pilkington helped Passaic Tech break through for its first Passaic County title during one of the closest team races in tournament history. The Bulldogs scored 355 points on Saturday, just enough to get by Wayne Hills and defending champion Wayne Valley. It was a long time coming for a growing program that scored more and more points in six consecutive years, only to come up short every time.
Finally, the title is staying at home.
“I’m speechless,” said Pilkington, of West Milford. “It just feels so amazing. I’m so happy right now being that it’s the first time ever.”
Saturday may be the day Pilkington looks back on as the start of a new dynasty. Passaic Tech is a young, up-and-coming team at a behemoth school that couldn’t help but notice the rings and trophies around them for their boys swimming counterpart. It only added more inspiration to build on last year’s second place finish, and all the other close calls from the first decade of the county tournament.
They started the second one off on top.
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“For the girls, [the mission has been] we’re going to do that too,” first-year coach Genevieve Wall said. “We can be that program too. This is the start of it.”
Pilkington has been one of the keys to the transformation.
She is now one of the most decorated swimmers in Passaic County history after her second straight win in the 200-yard freestyle. That gave her four career individual titles, just enough on a day when the Bulldogs won only three of 11 races.
“She puts in the work,” Wall said. “She puts in the time. When she gets tired, she doesn’t stop. She doesn’t complain. She really pushes herself and you can tell. The records she’s breaking are her own records so it’s awesome to see her succeed.”
Sophomore Symi Lall was responsible for the Bulldogs’ other wins.
The Ringwood native helped set a school relay record and then broke the minute-mark in the backstroke for the first time in tournament history.
“It means the world,” Lall said, afterwards.
All 11 races went to three crosstown rivals who were neck-and-neck throughout the day. Wayne Valley’s Maddie Borowinski defended two sprint freestyle titles and teammate Claire Custance was the only other double winner, very nearly breaking Meaghan O’Donnell’s mark in the breaststroke. A butterfly record for Wayne Hills’ Cassandra Lee made her the county’s first girl to win the same individual event four times.
In the end though, it wasn’t enough to top Passaic Tech.
“They just work really hard,” Wall said. “They’re talented, but it’s not just Symi or Vanessa [Hernandez] or Mary that are getting school or county records. It’s not just those kids. We have a lot of depth and a lot of heart. And they work. We have freshmen who put in the work. They’re not discouraged to get fourth place of fifth place. They know it takes that to win.”
Passaic County Champions
200 medley relay: Passaic Tech (1:57.34). 200 freestyle: Mary Pilkington, Passaic Tech (2:02.72). 200 IM: Claire Custance, Wayne Valley (2:16.66). 50 freestyle:Maddie Borowinski, Wayne Valley (25.60). 100 fly: Cassandra Lee, Wayne Hills (1:00.37). 100 freestyle: Maddie Borowinski, Wayne Valley (56.48). 500 freestyle:Natalie Chung, Wayne Hills (5:53.03). 200 free relay: Wayne Hills (1:49.12). 100 back: Symi Lall, Passaic Tech (59.82). 100 breaststroke: Claire Custance, Wayne Valley (1:07.87). 400 free relay: Wayne Hills (3:53.31).