By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Abbey Berloco was much more relaxed heading into this year’s Meet of Champions at the Gloucester Institute of Technology.
“I think last year I was more nervous,” the Princeton High sophomore said. “I didn’t know what to expect. This year I was really looking forward to it and had more of an idea what I wanted to accomplish. I was going in with high hopes and just hoping to do my best.”
Berloco had about as good a day as she could have hoped for, winning the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle as an individual, while also helping the Little Tigers to a win in the 400 freestyle relay.
“It was a really great meet,” said Berloco, who was fifth in the 50 free at last year’s meet. “It has been something we have been looking forward to all season. The relay is one of my favorite events because we all do it together and to end the high school season on that note and with that time as a team with two graduating seniors is an amazing feeling. We all felt like we went out well and it was our last race and we put all we had into it.”
Berloco won the 50 in 23.20 and the 100 in 50.30. The Princeton girls were seventh in the medley relay and then ended the meet with Maddie Deardorff, Brianna Romaine, Melinda Tang and Berloco winning the 400 free relay in 3:28.60, just missing the meet record.
“It was a great day,” Princeton coach Carly Misiewicz said. “Melinda getting fifth in the 100 fly was great. The medley relay swam well. And then having Abbey win the 50 free and 100 free, it was a great day for the girls. She won the 100 by over a second. It wasn’t really close.
“In the 400 relay we really wanted to get that meet record and we just missed it by three-tenths of a second. You can still argue 3:28 is an insanely fast time, but we were so close.”
Berloco is just a sophomore and should be back a year from now to defend her two titles. She has been steadily improving each year and has established herself as one of the top sprint freestylers in the state.
“Coming into the meet my training had been a little off,” said Berloco, who swims for the Hamilton Aquatic Club as well as Princeton High. “I didn’t know what to expect because my shoulder had been bothering me. I didn’t know what I could do. It was a great day for our team.
“With club swimming a lot of it is more individual and more for yourself. With high school you want to represent your school in a positive way. I was nervous but it was a good nervous.”
Princeton’s Tang was fifth in the 100 butterfly and Romaine was 12th in the 100 free.
“For both of our seniors it was a really nice way to end their final high school meet and walk out as winners in the 400 free relay back to back years,” Misiewicz said. “It was a nice way to finish and have that be the be all and end all. Maddie of heading to Williams and Brianna to West Point and they are really excited and looking forward to it.
“The two of them have made such an impact on the team and helped the team become a powerhouse. They are amazing and great girls who always swim out of their minds and will always do whatever the team need of them. They have made Princeton swimming what it is the past couple of years.”
Now the mantel will fall to Berloco, Tang and the rest of the returning swimmers. Berloco will look to build on her success.
“You can tell how much she has matured over the past year,” Misiewicz said. “Last year she was really nervous. This year she said she was just going to get in and do her best and whatever happens, happens. To have that mentality and do so well is really impressive.”
Other Packet-area swimmers also swam in the finals and consolation finals at the meet. On the girls side, Montgomery was eighth in medley relay was 17th in 200 free relay. Michelle D’Allegro was ninth in the breaststroke and Jenna D’Allegro was 16th. The Cougars’ Julia Bland was eighth in the 200 IM and eighth in the 500 free, while Kara Lydzinski was 12th in butterfly.
On the boys side, WW-P South’s Kurt von Autenreid finished 10th in the butterfly and the Pirates’ Richard Deng was 15th in the backstroke. WW-P North’s Deion Alfajora was 12th in the breaststroke, while Montgomery’s Jake Otterbein was eighth in the 200 free. Princeton’s 200 free relay finished eighth, while Montgomery was 13th in the 200 free relay and seventh in the 400 free relay. WW-P South was 17th in the 400 free relay.
For Berloco, the meet was a great way to end the high school season.
“I was very happy,” she said. “I knew going in there would be a lot of great competition and close races. It was great to see how all the training paid off.”
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor