Raritan Valley YMCA swimmers head to Charlotte after most successful championship season yet

12 & under YMCA States: Joey Guadagnino, left, and Patrick Blalock.

EAST BRUNSWICK — The later part of winter is intense for YMCA swimmers. Instead of one championship meet, many swimmers compete in multiple championship meets held by different governing bodies of swimming. It is a tough time to balance constant training and competition, but RVY swimmers have ended the winter with some unprecedented accomplishments for the team, and one more big weekend in North Carolina is yet to come.

One highlight of the season so far is Riptide’s ninth place finish at 12 & under YMCA States, the team’s first top-10 finish in at least 12 years. RVY has improved in ranking four seasons in a row, gradually moving up from 27th to ninth.

Just qualifying for States is an impressive feat, but scoring points requires a top-16 finish in a very competitive field of swimmers from all over the state.

At the meet, Patrick Blalock scored points in seven events, winning two individual state championships (11-12 Boys 50 Breast in 31.54 and 11-12 Boys 200 Fly in 2:13.16), and a second-place finish in 100 Fly with 59.63. All three times are team records, and the wins are Riptide’s first state championships in three years, and first in the 11-12 age division in 12 years.

Kevin Hall added four more top finishes in the 10 & under age group, finishing second in all of the Boys 50 Free, 100 Free, 200 Free, and 100 IM. Nika Saroka scored points in two events for 10 & under girls at only 9 years old, with a year left to swim in that age group, and Joey Guadagnino qualified for finals in all 3 11-12 Boys breaststroke events, scoring points in all three.

Kaleb Mendez, Marvellous Suciayahdi, Isabella Diaz, Caroline Compton, Jordyn Ayres, Giselle Rosa, Aanya Shridhar, Madelyn Keegan, Reagan Umbach, and Brianna Zheng also scored points as relay team members.

In the 13-14 age group at States, Kaitlin Hall scored points in 1000 Free, 500 Free and 400 IM.

The Silver and Bronze meets are part of the YMCA State Championship series. These meets also require qualifying times, but not as fast as the State times. Swimmers in each meet have a chance to move up to the next meet if they improve their times.

At the Silver meet, Jordyn Ayres, Caroline Compton, Justin Freyer, Kait Hall, Madelyn Keegan, Drew Machurov, Reagan Umbach, and Gavin Zazzarino were able to move up from Silvers to States, with Freyer, Hall, and Umbach, along with Aanya Shridhar, finishing first in at least one event.

In the Bronze meet, Jordyn Ayres, Luke Babst, Isabella Diaz, Cole Eastep, Justin Freyer, Elliot Lebowitz, Kaleb Mendez, Elizabeth Molinelli, Ella Ninal, Robert O’Connell, Gianna Socio, Marvellous Suciayahdi, and Gavin Zazzarino were able to move up to Silvers, with Ayres, Babst, Lebowitz, Mendez, Molinelli, O’Connell, Suciayahdi, and Zazzarino also gaining first-place finishes for Riptide along with other event winners Jake Babst, Jessica Fernandez, and Alexander Maliev.

Riptide won seven relay events at the Bronze meet, including a sweep of all four 11-12 relays.

Before the main series of YMCA State Championships, the post-season begins with a championship meet for the youngest swimmers, 8 & under State Championships. This year, Riptide’s Lawrence Deng, Lucas Dobbs, Kayli Stefanowicz and Justin Zhao all earned event wins in RVY’s cohort of the 8 & under championships.

In addition to YMCA championships, Riptide swimmers are also starring in other local competitions such as New Jersey Swimming’s Junior Olympics and high school varsity competition. At Junior Olympics, Drew Machurov qualified for the A-final of the 13-14 Boys 200 Breast and Kevin Hall set a new team record in 9-10 Boys 500 Free (6:23.11). In high school competition, graduating seniors Ben Lockey and Henry Lynch each became county champions, with Lockey winning the 100 Free and Lynch the 100 Fly at the Greater Middlesex County championships. At Meet of Champions, the scholastic high school state championship meet, Katie Ryan qualified for the A-final of the women’s 50 Free.

“We’ve been missing out on this sort of experience the last two years,” said Coach Brian Rose. “It was difficult just to keep the kids swimming at all during the pandemic, but there weren’t many chances to compete against other teams. It is great to finally see our kids get a chance to succeed in an atmosphere of real competition.”

With the local championships coming to an end, 38 Riptide swimmers traveled to North Carolina March 24-27 to compete in the SunKissed championship meet. Riptide’s association with the meet comes from a shared YWCA swimming legacy. The SunKissed meet was created from the former YWCA National Championship, and Riptide is descended from the former Central Jersey YWCA swim team.

While becoming an official team member requires being selected at summer tryouts, new swimmers can join Spring Fling and start practicing with the team immediately, no tryout required. More information on Riptide and Spring Fling are available at RVYRiptide.org.

  • This information was provided by the Raritan Valley YMCA in East Brunswick.
13-14 first-place freestyle relays at Bronze: Taylor Huggup, from left, Elizabeth Molinelli, Gianna Socio, Caroline Astarita, Mason Trinh, Luke Babst, Cole Eastep and Robert O’Connell.
SunKissed Seniors: Jay Creegan, left to right, Justin Dumas, Henry Lynch and Ben Lockey.
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