By Tim Morris
Despite graduating a lot of experience, the Colts Neck High School girls swimming team has remained very competitive.
Even with a roster that has just two seniors, the Cougars had a chance to repeat as Shore Conference B North Division champions until falling to Red Bank Regional High School in a dual meet Jan. 14 that gave the public school title to the Buccaneers. Still, with a 6-3 overall record, the Cougars can qualify for the state tournament next month.
“There was a lot of depth on the team this year,” Colts Neck head coach Dennis Bruck said. “We had very good freshmen come into the program.
“The sophomores and juniors really stepped it up. They practice very, very hard.”
The two seniors the Cougars have — Kayleigh Hoagland and Victoria Vecchiarelli – have been outstanding leaders.
Hoagland is one of the best swimmers in the conference. She had an outstanding meet at the Monmouth County Championships turning in qualifying times for the NJSIAA Individual Swimming Championships in two events. The senior finished second in the 100-yard backstroke (58.79) and fifth in the 50 freestyle (24.53).
The state individual championships are Feb. 27-28 at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology in Sewell.
Hoagland also was part of two Cougars relay teams that finished in the top at the county championships held Jan. 8 at the Neptune Aquatic Center.
The team of Nicole Dado, Vera Stepanyan, Megan Judge and Hoagland was fourth in the 400 Freestyle Relay (3:51.08) and seventh in the 200 Medley Relay (1:57.85).
Judge (50 freestyle, 100 backstroke), Stepanyan (100 backstroke,200 IM), Dado (100 breaststroke, 200 Individual Medley), Madison Reed (100 breaststroke) and Kristina Nappi (100 butterfly) scored individually for the Cougars, helping them finish eighth (114 points) at the county championships.
Dado, Judge and Nappi are three of Colts Neck’s deep and talented freshman class that has helped the Cougars so much this winter.
The future is also bright for Colts Neck’s boys.
“It was a breakout year for the boys,” Bruck said.
After graduating 12 seniors, the Cougars were in rebuilding mode, and the rebuilding is ahead of schedule considering that they have just one senior: sprinter Steve Simon. The Cougars are 4-5 in dual meets.
Freshman Lucas Albaladejo and Alex Hou are the Cougars’ future. Simon and junior Mike Franco have provided the veteran experience.