Passaic Tech and River Dell/Westwood end title droughts at Big North Liberty meet by Sean Farrell of The Record
WAYNE – Alec Balasny remembers feeling forgotten.
There was a time not long ago when people in his school didn’t even know the swim team existed.
How quickly times have changed.
The senior was as impressive as usual Tuesday night, racing River Dell/Westwood to one of its biggest wins in program history. The Golden Hawks won the Big North Liberty title with Balasny part of an overwhelming set of top-end speed. The co-op program won 10 of 11 races to take down defending-champion Passaic Tech and end a long championship drought. This is believed to be their first league title in over a decade.
“When we were freshmen, we had three wins,” said Balasny, a TCNJ commit. “It’s a whole team effort. The whole team brought it back from that to 9-1 on the season so far. It’s been amazing and it feels so good right now.”
Here are four other things that stood out from Tuesday’s league meet, which was also won by the Passaic Tech girls.
Stars come out for the Golden Hawks
After losing the opening race, River Dell/Westwood rolled off 10 straight wins with the help of its usual leaders. Balasny was not to be denied in the 50 and 100 freestyles, and later anchored a relay to a win to complete the night. Senior Conrad Hoody complemented him with a pair of wins in the distance freestyles, while Ryan Higgins and Jeffrey Hua picked up upsets later on to seal the Golden Hawks’ fate. Mitchell Shirman went 2-for-2 to deliver the first major championship of any kind for the team’s seniors.
“This means so much because this team has been so good for so long,” coach Chris Armen said. “Alec and Conrad are too good not to have a league championship.”
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Passaic Tech girls get first title
The Bulldogs earned their first Big North championship by scoring 404 points to get past Pascack Regional, which had won its division for eight straight seasons. The Bulldogs won all three relays and six events in total with Vanessa Hernandez sparking the team.
“She’s so versatile,” coach Gen Wall said. “I know she’s so competitive that she can push any team to do better.”
Senior Mary Pilkington finished first in the 200 freestyle, while freshmen Julia Bartoszewicz and Samantha Berkenbosch each picked up their first league titles. Berkenbosch has given the team a dose of confidence since returning mid-season from shoulder surgery.
“They’re definitely starting to see (our potential),” Wall said. “They’re starting to see that we have more players that they realized and more depth than we thought.”
Marzano gets gold for Pascack Regional
Senior Haleigh Marzano was a double-winner with first-place times in the 50 and 100 freestyle. The Lafayette-bound swimmer isn’t usually a sprinter — she was a Bergen County medalist in the breaststoke and 200 IM — but can go wherever needed in Pascack Regional’s lineup. Marzano currently holds four school records for the co-op program.
“She has just the heart and desire to win and step up,” coach Jeff Ziegler said.
“For her first couple years on the team, she got overshadowed a little bit. Now she’s been able to step into a leadership role and that’s given her confidence in the water as well.”
Rodriguez flies high for River Dell/Westwood
Sydney Rodriguez showed once again that she’s one of the top sophomores across North Jersey. Rodriguez won the butterfly in 57.72 seconds and later took the backstroke race by a considerable margin. Both times were almost carbon copies to Sunday, when she finished top-five in the Bergen County Meet of Champions.
“With Sydney, it’s when she gets up on the block,” Armen said. “She’s a little more happy-go-lucky. But when she sets her mind to something, she goes after it.”