CBA sailors qualify for national championships


By Wayne Witkowski

Christian Brothers Academy’s (CBA) sailing team, marking just its 10th year of competition that includes the last seven on varsity level, is headed to the High School National Championships.

The Lincroft school qualified for the May 12-14 championships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the Charles River for the first time after a solid second-place finish April 10-11 in the Mid-Atlantic District Championships. It was hosted by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point.

It is the highest finish ever for CBA in the district, comprised of schools from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. The team finished just seven points behind champion Severn School of Annapolis, Maryland, in the field of 17 teams. The top four finishers in the district advance to nationals.

“Watching this program grow from very little into national championship qualifiers is nothing short of a dream come true,” said coach Jason Lutz, who was a sailor on the team in 2007 when the program began. “We have built a well-rounded program that can win championships but also develop young sailors into great competitors. We all take a lot of pride in knowing that CBA is the top high school for sailing in New Jersey. We are especially excited to represent our school at the nationals.

“It is truly the culmination of a decade of hard work building this program from the ground up. It is a special group of sailors, and I know they are very thrilled to get to sail on the national stage for CBA.”

Junior Michael Ehnot and sophomore Ryan Mullins won the B Division by nine points over the next finisher. Ehnot and Mullins won three of their eight races.

In the A Division, the senior tandem of Joe LaForgia and Chris Magno, the team captains who teamed up for the first time in a year, landed a tight fifth-place finish, placing in the top five in six of their eight races.

“Senior leadership is an important thing to have in any sport, and Joe and Chris provide that for us,” Lutz said. “We certainly would not have made it to the nationals without them.”

LaForgia, the team captain the past two seasons, is the reigning New Jersey Sailor of the Year.

“Our qualification for nationals is the culmination of over a decade of work from not only myself, but all the sailors, parents, and coaches who comprise the CBA varsity sailing program,” LaForgia said. “This year’s team has merely stood on the shoulders of all those before us, and without them, none of this would’ve been possible.”

The Colts’ team was rounded out by sophomore Justin Modin and freshmen John Cocozza and Rodney Wotton.

“This core CBA team that qualified for the national championship has been sailing together for about two years now,” Lutz said. “Over these last two years, I have seen great growth in every sailor. Each one of them is a smarter sailor than they were two years ago. This growth culminated at the district qualifier [for nationals]. I have to commend junior Michael Ehnot and sophomore Ryan Mullins for winning their division at the districts. To beat 17 other teams from schools spanning from New York to Virginia, you have to be pretty talented and sail your best, and Michael and Ryan did just that.”

Lutz said a tough New Jersey schedule of schools competing among the 25 members of the New Jersey Interscholastic Sailing Association (NJISA), helped prepare his team well for the district event. He cited Ranney School, Donovan Catholic High School, Southern Regional High School and Summit High School among the toughest competition.

CBA has won the league four times in fall 2014, spring and fall 2015 and spring 2016 and was a close second this spring and currently is two-time defending state champion, with four all-state first team sailors last year. The 2017 state finals will be held April 29 at Shrewsbury Sailing & Yacht Club in Oceanport, where Lutz expects the toughest competition from Ranney and Southern Regional.

It will be a good warmup for the national finals.