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By Katie Wingert, Swimming World College Intern.
New Jersey’s top high school girls had no shortage of close finishes at Gloucester Institute of Technology this morning. The psych sheets after prelims promised a tight meet, and the finals of the Meet of Champions did not disappoint.
The meet started off in an exciting fashion, with returning champion Scotch Plains Fanwood–seeded in seventh–tying Mendham for gold and 1:46.67. The lead changed hands multiple times. In the backstroke leg, Mendham’s Erika Frazier led the way, but Scotch Plains’ Rachel Maizes produced a scorching 28.79 breaststroke split to poach the lead. Then, Mendham’s Mary Laurita pounded out a butterfly leg over a second faster than that of Scotch Plains’ Stephanie Judge–but freshman DeeDee Maizes of Scotch Plains was not content to settle for silver and closed the gap. Meanwhile, Montgomery (1:47.11) battled it out with three other teams, all within a second of each other, for bronze.
The 200 freestyle was similarly exciting. Amanda Nunan from Ocean City succeeded in defending her title in the event, although her 1:49.30 did not beat out her time from last year. Two other women swam under 1:50 with Nunan and made her fight for her spot on the podium. Hillsborough’s Megan Bull remained close to Nunan throughout the race, and her blazing back half (55.73) nearly won her the gold. She ultimately came up just short, in 1:49.39. Sophia Krudyashova, the event’s top seed from New Providence, took out the first 100 yards in 52.88–four tenths faster than Nunan–but was unable to maintain her lead in the back half.
The 200 IM produced another back-to-back champion in Bishop Ahr’s Sarah Hardy, who touched out Trinity Hall’s Caroline Gmelich in 2:04.26. Hardy established her lead in the butterfly leg and maintained it in the backstroke and breaststroke. Gmelich fought back in the freestyle leg, but her 2:04.93 was not good for gold. Breaststroker Grace Yoon of Cherry Hill East produced a predictably strong back half, but her 2:05.66 could only grant her the bronze.
After several predictable races, the 50 freestyle produced a shocking upset. Ocean City’s Ryann Styer dominated the sprint field and raced the clock for a 23.16, just shy of the 23.00 meet record. Styer was followed by Ping’s Darlene Fung, who swam a solid 23.55. The event’s returning champion, Abbey Berloco of Notre Dame, snagged the bronze with a 23.63.
The suspense continued with the 100 butterfly. Junior Monika Burzynska of Colonia maintained her title as the event champion and flew to a 55.05–eight tenths of a second faster than her time in the event last year. Alexis Faria, the event’s fourth seed from Sparta, climbed up to second place on the podium with a 55.48. Cassidy Freeman, a senior from Pascack Regional, was just behind her in 55.67.
Berloco returned from the 50 freestyle with a vengeance; she annihilated her competitors with a 50.61, fueled by a courageous back half. Sophia Kudryashova, trying her hand at the shorter events, swam an aggressive 51.28, while Kate Sheridan of Immaculate Heart nabbed the bronze just behind her, in 51.34.
The 500 free saw Ocean City teammates Nunan and Maggie Wallace holding pace with one another in an exhilarating 500 race that came down to the fingertips. Nunan ultimately won out over Wallace with a 4:48.12–an impressive swim, though two seconds off her own meet record set last year. Wallace had a remarkable swim herself, clocking in at 4:48.21. Emily Jones of Gloucester Catholic was the next top finisher in 5:01.51.
The 200 yard freestyle relay brought victory for Immaculate Heart Academy (1:35.62), who just topped Ocean City (1:36.11). Styer fought hard on the end for Ocean City and brought it home in an incredible 22.84, but she couldn’t make up the necessary real estate to claim gold. Immaculate Heart’s victory–just three tenths of a second off the meet record–was a true team effort, with each split landing between 23.45 (Sheridan as anchor) and 24.19. Morristown took a solid third in 1:37.08.
The runner-up in the 200 IM, Gmelich from Trinity Hall, attacked the first half of her 100 backstroke and handily defeated her competition. The senior posted a 55.09, over a second faster than her second-place time in the event last year. Her closest competitor proved to be Mount Saint Mary’s Shay Hollander, in 55.94, followed closely by Wall’s Grace Kayal in 56.12.
In the final individual event of the meet the 100 breaststroke, Yoon and Maizes went head to head. Maizes chose to take out the front half, while Yoon swam slightly more conservatively in order to have a strong drive in the back half. Yoon’s strategy paid off; she stopped the clock at 1:03.46, while Maizes hit the touchpad in 1:03.63. Hightstown’s Allie McDaid was not far behind with her 1:04.41.
In an appropriate finale to a meet full of close finishes, Immaculate Heart Academy and Ocean City High School once again sparred for gold in the 400 freestyle relay. Immaculate Heart came out on top, in 3:29.27, with the same squad as the 200. Ocean City was close behind in 3:30.01, anchored by the reliable Nunan (50.91), who showed off her prowess in the sprints.
All results can be found on Meet Mobile – 2017 Meet of Champions.