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By Katie Wingert, Swimming World College Intern.
New Jersey’s top high school girls are poised to deliver at tomorrow’s finals of the individual state championship meet. The competition will start at the Gloucester Institute of Technology in Sewell at 10 am on March 5.
The meet will open with a tight 200 yard medley relay race. Montgomery leads the field with a 1:47.33 entry time, but Mendham (1:47.65) and Chatham (1:47.67) are not far behind. Meanwhile, sitting at a deceiving seventh in the psych sheets, the returning state champion and record holder, Scotch Plains Fanwood, maintains the same squad as last year with the exception of their anchor (DeeDee Maizes). Scotch Plains seems likely to move up at least a few more platforms on the podium at finals.
In the women’s 200 yard freestyle, Ocean City’s Amanda Nunan will aim to defend her title in her final high school season. Nunan swam a conservative 1:50.67 in the prelims, which was good for second seed to top-ranked Sophia Kudryashova—the only woman under 1:50, with a 1:49.11—of New Providence. Solidly seeded third, Hillsborough’s Megan Bull posted a 1:50.88 this morning and looks likely to be in the thick of the hunt for gold.
Bull’s choice to swim the 200 freestyle, after silver medaling in the 200 IM last year, leaves the IM field far more open. Caroline Gmelich, a senior from Trinity Hall who placed fifth last year, currently holds the top seed in the event with a 2:05.60. Freshman Grace Yoon of Cherry Hill East owns the second seed in 2:06.45, and just behind her, returning champion Sarah Hardy of Bishop George Ahr (2:06.69) is also poised for the podium.
Meanwhile, a battle is once again brewing in the girls’ 50 yard freestyle. Ryann Styer (23.43) of Ocean City and Abbey Berloco (23.61), who transferred from Princeton High School to Notre Dame this year, will once again duel in the 50 freestyle. Last year, it was Berloco who came out ahead, with Styer only 0.22 seconds behind. The blazing heat promises to parallel last year’s top heat; five of the eight swimmers are returning from the 2016 A-Final, including third-place seed (and 2016 bronze medalist) Darlene Fung.
The 100-yard butterfly promises to be similarly exciting, as last year’s silver medalist, Monika Burzynska of Colonia—seeded with a 55.86—prepares to face off against Pasvack Valley School’s Cassidy Freeman (55.98). The entire heat remains thick with 56-second seed times, including that of third-place seed, Manasquan’s Kathryn Petrone (56.15), as well as that of Mendham’s Mary Laurita (56.48), fresh out of the 50 freestyle.
The 100 yard freestyle will pit the meet’s star distance swimmer, Sophia Kudryashova, against the meet’s star sprinter, Abbey Berloco. Kudryashova is currently the top seed with a 50.79, while Berloco posted a 51.14 in the prelims. To round out the bunch, Immaculate Heart’s Kate Sheridan will prepare for finals at a 51.59.
In the 500 freestyle, Ocean City High School’s Amanda Nunan and Maggie Wallace, last year’s champion and runner-up, respectively, will once again lead the pack. Last year, Nunan broke the meet record and set the pace for Wallace, who finished six seconds behind her. This year, Wallace (4:51.00) goes into Sunday’s final ahead of Nunan (4:51.69), and their closest competitor, Gloucester Catholic’s Emily Jones, remains ten seconds behind (5:01.30).
In the 200 yard freestyle relay, Ocean City High School combined the talents of Nunan and Wallace, along with those of Andrea Teofanova and 50 freestyler Styer for a speedy prelims swim of 1:36.66. Immaculate Heart Academy is not far behind with a well-rounded group of girls, seeded with a 1:36.90. Morristown High School is set up for third, in 1:37.57, but Notre Dame High School—headed up by Berloco, with a prelims time of 1:37.60—seems likely to battle for a spot on the podium as well.
This year’s 100 backstroke final promises to be fast. Last year’s second-place finisher, senior Gmelich of Trinity Hall, is seeded first with a 55.19. She is followed by Shay Hollander of Mount Saint Mary’s Academy, who posted a 56.15 in prelims, and Wall’s Grace Kayal, who dropped considerable time during prelims for her 56.35. Mackenzie O’Connor of Bishop Eustace, the 2016 bronze medalist, is another swimmer to watch. She is currently seeded fifth with a 57.01.
The final individual event of the meet, the girls’ 100 breaststroke, promises to be a close one, as the top eight competitors are all within 1.05 seconds of one another. Yoon currently leads the pack with a 1:04 flat. Rachel Maizes of Scotch Plains, last year’s bronze medalist, is seeded second with a 1:04.09, while Ping’s Lindsay Rispoli posted a 1:04.58 during prelims.
The finals will conclude with the girls’ 400 yard freestyle relay. Immaculate Heart Academy is currently ahead of the field with a 3:31.49, but, based on the split times of Ocean City High School (3:32.77) and Chatham High School (3:34.92), the race for gold will likely be closer than the prelim results might suggest.
All results can be found on Meet Mobile – 2017 Meet of Champions.