By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Maddie Deardorff and the rest of the seniors on the Princeton High girls swim team are leaving the Mercer County championships the same way they started — as champions.
The Princeton girls cruised to their fourth straight team title last Saturday at West Windsor-Plainsboro North, outdistancing second place Notre Dame, 270-221 in the final standings
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Deardorff said. “The seniors, Brianna (Romaine), me, Kate (Ellsworth) and all the others, when we were all freshmen we finished first and at the time that was so incredible because I think South had won it seven or eight years in a row before that. So to continue that string is amazing. The group of girls that we have turns over every year but we are able to stay successful.”
Princeton won eight of the 11 events, setting meet records in the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay. The Little Tigers also captured six individual events, led by the meets Most Outstanding Swimmer, Abbey Berloco, who won the 50-meter freestyle and the 400 freestyle. Deardorff won the 100-meter butterfly, Brianna Romaine won the 100 free and 100 backstroke, and Melinda Tang won the 200 freestyle.
“We had a phenomenal start and end to the meet with a record in each event,” Princeton coach Carly Misiewicz said. “They just missed the medley record last year and then this year they broke it in prelims and then set it again in the finals. They wanted to go under 2 minutes so badly in the medley and they swam 2:00.04. They got the 400 free record last year and then broke it again by a second and a half in the finals.”
Princeton’s win led an impressive showing by many Packet-area swimmers. The West Windsor-Plainsboro South boys finished second to Notre Dame, while the Princeton boys were third and the WW-P North boys were fourth. The WW-P South girls finished fifth and the WW-P North girls were ninth.
The stars of the day were Princeton, led by Romaine, Tang, Deardorff and Berloco, who combined to set the two relay records.
“We were definitely confident coming in,” Deardorff said. “We knew Notre Dame and Hightstown and Steinert and South all had good teams. To be able to win the counties again against such good competition is a great accomplishment for us. I know Brianne and I really wanted to win this to end on a good note.
“Last year I remember setting the records and it was a special. I don’t think we came in with high expectations of setting them again. But we came in wanting to swim well and we did that.” The Princeton girls came into the meet with high expectations and delivered on those with a fourth straight title.
“We tell the boys and girls the hard part of the meet is Thursday and Friday in the prelims,” Misiewicz said. “The tough part is sneaking into sixth and making the A final or 12th to get into the B final. We had quite a few who finished 13th or 14th who just missed. But overall I very happy across with both teams across the board.”
In addition to the first place finishes for the Princeton girls, Tang was third in 400 free, Deardorff was second in the 200 IM, Jamie Liu was third in the 200 IM, and Emily Curran was sixth in the 50 free.
“We have developed a tradition of girls stepping in and filling in the spots where we have lost people,” Deardorff said. “I hope that will continue. We know there are some eighth graders and some younger swimmers and hopefully they will come and be there and continue what we have done. Even though I won’t be here I am excited about the future for the team.”
While the Princeton girls came into the meet with high expectations, the boys surprised everyone but themselves with their third place finish.
“The boys had a great meet,” Misiewicz said. “I was very happy. (Assistant coach Greg Hand) and I talking Friday after prelims and he texted me and we had scored it out with the boys third. Based on our record no one expected us to be a team that contended for the top three. They had said all year long wait until counties and they showed up at prelims and said we are here and not going away. They just did great.”
For the Princeton boys, Christian Chiang was second in the 100 butterfly and second in 100 breaststroke, Stephen Kratzer was third in 100 free, Gabriel Bar-Cohen was sixth in 200 IM, Alex Petruso was fourth in 50 free and third in 100 backstroke, andWill Kinney finished sixth in 100 backstroke.
The WW-P South boys came into the meet hoping for a county title, but came up just short as Notre Dame edged the Pirates, 266-205, in the team standings. The Pirates won the medley relay with Richard Deng, Alex He, Kurt Von Autenried and Manish Rachamulla, while Von Autenried won the 100 butterfly in 58.57.
“You want to go in and win and you want to help them accomplish that,” WW-P South coach Jessica Turner said. “I thought both the boys and girls did a phenomenal job. We had some personal best times and when the kids do the best they can that is all you can ask for.
“The meet was closet than last year. When you look at the times and where people I was happy. The boys were pleased to win the first event of the meet. That sets a good tone for everyone to build on.”
For the Pirates, Von Autenried was third in the 50 free, Deng was second in 200 IM and second in 100 backstroke, Michael Zhong was third in butterfly and fifth in 400 free, Alexsandr Simonelli finished fifth in 200 free and fifth in 100 free, He was third in the 100 breaststroke, and Rachamulla was sixth in 100 breaststroke.
On the girls side, Annie Menninger was fifth in the 200 IM and second in 100 breaststroke. Virginia Sperandini was fourth in the 100 breaststroke
The WW-P North boys also fared well and came away with some individual wins. Matthew Lequang won the 400 free in 4:11.76, while Deion Alfajora was first in 100 breaststroke. He also and third in the 200 IM, while Alex Yu was fifth in 50 free and Shotallo Kato was sixth in 100 free
“We went into the meet with high expectations,” WW-P North coach Todd Robinson said. “I thought the team met and exceeded those expectations. We had three school record broken and also had two individual golds with Matt in the 400, where he broke the school record, and Deion in the 100 breast, where he broke his own record in that event.
“Matt is a great kid with exceptional ability. What I love about him is he carries himself as someone in his place should. He has a bright future. He swam mostly the 200 and 400 for us but he is very versatile. He swam the IM and even the fly and breaststroke for us. It’s great having him and Deion, who is a junior in his first year on the team and is also a versatile kid.”
The North girls did not have a swimmer reach the A final in any event, but they came away with a solid performance in the meet.
“Hana Kato swam 200 IM and fly and had some good swims,” Robinson said. “Becca Adlai-Gail, our other captain, swam the 200 free and 400 free and swam well on Saturday. Gwen Yven in the100 back and some of the other girls who are freshmen who swam well. Juliana Wojtenko and her sister, Larisa, both swam well. Adrienne Wang and Rachel Adlai-Gail came in and added a lot to the team. Also Jacelyn Tarn, a sophomore, did very well for us.
“I am very proud of the way they swam.”
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor