DEPTFORD TOWNSHIP - Atlantic City High School girls swimming coach Bill Howarth threw everything he had at defending champion Cherry Hill East to try and win the South Jersey Public A title on Thursday.
The second-seeded Vikings took the first eight events from the top-seeded Cougars at Gloucester County Institute of Technology.
Atlantic City's 200-yard freestyle relay even set a school record. But Cherry Hill East (13-0) was too strong for the Vikings (12-1) and dominated the final three events to win its second straight sectional title, 93-77.
"Overall, we swam great. We did everything we could right from the start," Howarth said. "We beat a lot of their best swimmers, but they had so many best swimmers. They just kept coming. We had some close races even in the races we lost. We easily swam our best meet of the year and we got beat by a better team. That's all there was to it."
Seniors Ayana Cox, Colleen Callahan and Melissa Toy joined freshman Amber Glenn in the 200 freestyle relay. Glenn had just come off of her second win of the day with a victory in the 500 freestyle (5 minutes, 7.51 seconds) to give Atlantic City a 60-50 lead.
Putting Cox, Callahan and Toy in the event ended the night for Howarth's top swimmers. The foursome swam a school-record time of 1:40.35 to give the Vikings, ranked No. 1 in The Press Elite 11, its biggest lead of the night 68-56. The old record of 1:43.57 was set by Cox, Dominique Voso, Callahan and Toy on Jan. 26.
"I went for the 200 free relay today because I didn't want to wait for the 400," Howarth said. "I had a feeling since they were so strong that we might not even get to that 400 free relay and the meet would be over by then."
Cherry Hill East, No. 2 in the Elite 11, returned most of its team from last year and gained some seasoned freshman. Jamie Lynn Brookover, Natalie Simunek, and Allison Stulb swept the 100 backstroke to cut Atlantic City's lead to two.
The Cougars touched 1-2 in the 100 breaststroke for their first lead of the night 81-75. The 1-2 finish in the 400 freestyle relay sealed the victory.
"I knew Atlantic City had about six to eight pretty intense, studly girls, so I knew they were going to be stacked all around," coach Anita Bowser said. "When I saw the backstroke and the breaststroke I couldn't believe it.
"We were down pretty far. I wasn't sure if were were going to be able to do it. Before last year it was about 10 years before we won a sectional title. So to go two years in a row, it's pretty awesome."
Callahan and Toy were also double winners for the Vikings. Callahan touched first in the 200 individual medley (2:08.02) and the 100 butterfly (58.81), while Toy was first in the 50 freestyle (24.56) and the 100 freestyle (53.13). Toy, who will swim next year for Towson University, broke her own school record in the 50 freestyle (24.92) that she set last season.
"In the beginning of the year I looked at our team and saw we had some great strength up front and had to develop the depth as we went along," Howarth added. "I said, 'With what we have, if we can make it back here (to the sectional final), that would be a total success in my eyes'."
Dominique Voso contributed with a third-place finish in the 200 IM and the 500 freestyle, and Rachel Kessler added a third-place finish in the 100 breaststroke.
"Even though we lost, it kind of felt like we won in a way because everyone swam their best times," said Callahan, a 17-year old from Ventnor who will swim collegiately at Tennessee. "Even though some girls might be upset they got out-touched, or maybe didn't have the best race of their life, everyone put in the most effort they possibly could."
Contact Kelly Ashe:
200 Medley Relay-AC (Ayana Cox, Colleen Callahan, Dominique Voso, Melissa Toy) 1:49.40; 200 Freestyle-Amber Glenn AC 1:55.29; 200 IM-Callahan AC 2:08.02; 50 Freestyle-Toy AC 24.56; 100 Butterfly-Callahan AC 58.81; 100 Freestyle-Toy AC 53.13; 500 Freestyle-Glenn AC 5:07.51; 200 Freestyle Relay-AC (Cox, Glenn, Callahan, Toy) 1:40.35; 100 Backstroke-Jamie Lynn Brookover CHE 1:00.30; 100 Breaststroke-Colleen Finias CHE 1:08.06; 400 Freestyle Relay-CHE (Mackenzie Ropka, Lydia Huber, Brookover, Megan Miller) 3:46.41.
Records-A.C. 12-1, CHE 13-0.