DEPTFORD TOWNSHIP - Atlantic City High School senior Colleen Callahan will graduate as a legend in the swimming community after winning two events at the Meet of Champions at Gloucester County Institute of Technology on Sunday.
The 17-year old Ventnor resident began her career as a freshman phenom and carried that momentum through her senior year. Atlantic City coach Bill Howarth said she is the first girls swimmer in state history to win four championships each in two events and to win eight straight individual state titles.
"My coach really does everything he can do to make all of his swimmers faster. And I think he does a really good job with that," Callahan said. "I guess the key thing (to staying on top) is just doing, listening and believing in what he says."
Callahan won the 200-yard individual medley in 2 minutes, 0.72 seconds, breaking the record of 2:01.54 she set in 2012. She made her push in the breaststroke leg and cruised to victory in the freestyle. Later, she won the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.78.
"It feels incredible," the University of Tennessee-bound swimmer said. "I'm really happy with my swims, and all my hard work has paid off over the years. Without the support of my family, my friends, my teammates and my coaches, I wouldn't have been able to do it."
The Meet of Champions, more formally called the State Individual Swimming Championships, brings together the best high school swimmers from around New Jersey. The season-ending, two-day competition began Saturday with preliminaries.
"It's something that's never been done," Howarth said said of Callahan's career feat at MOC. "And that was always in the back of our minds. Colleen is Colleen. She's a tremendous competitor, and I was just happy to be able to be her high school coach for four years. How lucky am I?"
Callahan also swam the breaststroke leg of the Vikings' 200 medley relay. Atlantic City, the defending champion, finished second behind Hillsborough (1:45.72). Hillsborough won all three girls relay events in record times.
Seniors Ayana Cox, Callahan, Dominique Voso and Melissa Toy finished behind Hillsborough in a school-record 1:48.34. The foursome, which broke the school record of 1:48.66 it set at last year's event, swam its last race together.
"I was very nervous," said Toy, who swam the freestyle leg. "I saw that it was just so close between the other people, so I just dove in, swam as fast as I could and hoped for the best. I knew that it was definitely going to be close with the other teams, so I was happy I was able to bring it home for us to get second."
Ocean City junior Noel Styer was perhaps the area's most improved swimmer.
After missing out on the final heat in two events last year, Styer was motivated to perform her best. She anchored the Red Raiders' 200 medley relay to a fourth-place finish in 1:49.14 and took fifth in the 50 freestyle in a school-record 23.98. She set the previous record of 24.06 in the preliminaries Saturday. Styer also was a member of Ocean City's fifth-place 200 freestyle relay (1:38.76).
"I had to get to top eight. That was a big thing for me," the 17-year old Longport resident said. "I reached huge milestones this year and I was so excited to get that 23. Even though it was a 23.98, it was still a 23. I just freaked out. It was so exciting."
Vineland senior Rachel Bernhardt finished behind Callahan in the 100 breaststroke for the second straight year. She earned her second straight silver medal in 1:03.72.
Fighting Clan coach Mike Schneider said Bernhardt had an illustrious career and will go down in program history.
"It feels amazing" the 17-year old Vineland resident said. "I've done it all four years and had such different experiences every single year. Just ending on this one is great and now I'm off to swim at (Drexel) and I'll have championship meets there. This one (100 breaststroke final) was a lot closer, definitely."
Cox, Toy and Atlantic City freshman Amber Glenn each broke school records Sunday. Cox broke the 50 freestyle record and took ninth in 24.03. Toy had set the previous record of 24.29 in the preliminaries. Toy broke her own school record in the 100 freestyle in 52.37 for 10th overall. She set the previous record of 52.61 on Saturday. Glenn finished fifth in the 500 freestyle in 4:59.95. She broke her own school record, set in January, on Saturday in 4:56.73.
"All these girls kept improving for four years, and we broke five school records today," Howarth said. "That is quite a way to end it for our seniors."
Vineland junior Johnny Malatesta didn't believe the timer when he got his 200 individual medley final results. The 17-year old won his heat to finish ninth overall in 1:56.25, bettering his time of 1:58.99 in the preliminaries. He continued to surprise himself as the MOC continued.
He put the Fighting Clan in position for a second-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay. Mark Novatorskiy and Michael Ruberti kept Vineland on pace in the first two legs, Malatesta boosted them to the front of the pack and sophomore Eddie Parks anchored the relay to a school-record 1:26.56. Coach Brian Newton said the old record of 1:27.19 was set in 1995.
"It's been a very long time," Newton said. "It was an awesome feeling. I was very happy for them. They worked hard for it all year and sort of had that in their sites for a while. You can't say enough about those kids. Pingry (1:25.87) is a great team and we knew they were going to be front-runners. To stay up with them just says how well our kids swam to be able to swim at that caliber and at that level of competition.".
"We knew we were capable of doing it and we were the sleeper in the race," said Malatesta, who also took seventh in the 100 backstroke. "We came into the event seventh, so we really surprised everyone and surprised ourselves. It was awesome."
Contact Kelly Ashe:
Winners listed for each event, plus local finishers.
Area teams: Atlantic City, Absegami, Vineland, Mainland Regional, Ocean City, Egg Harbor Township
*denotes meet record
200 medley relay-1, Hillsborough (Lindsay Temple, Rachel Stoddard, Julieyanna Parker, Jacquelynn Parker) 1:45.72*; 2, A.C. 1:48.34; 4, O.C. 1:49.14; 8, Vineland 1:50.62. 200 freestyle-1, Ingrid Shu, Pingry, 1:49.19; 10, Emily Barnard, Absegami, 1:54.43; 13, Amber Glenn, A.C., 1:55.27. 200 IM-1, Colleen Callahan, A.C., 2:00.72*. 50 freestyle-1, Caroline Baldwin, Westfield, 23.28; 5, Noel Styer, O.C. 24.05; 9, Ayana Cox, A.C., 24.03; 12, Melissa Toy, A.C., 24.40. 100 butterfly-1, Hannah Matheson, Montgomery, 55:59. 100 freestyle-1, Shu, Pingry, 50.70; 10, Toy, A.C., 52.37. 500 freestyle-1, Taylor Worrell, Rancocas Valley, 4:54.36; 5, Glenn, A.C., 4:59.95. 200 freestyle relay-1. Hillsborough (Ja. Parker, Ju. Parker, Temple, Stoddard) 1:35.31*; 5, O.C., 1:38.76; 11, A.C., 1:40.86; 13, Mainland, 1:41.64; 22, EHT, 1:43.02; 23, Vineland 1:43.36. 100 backstroke-1, Baldwin, Westfield, 55.49; 100 breaststroke-1. Callahan, A.C., 1:01.78; 2, Rachel Bernhardt, Vineland, 1:03.72; 400 freestyle relay-1. Hillsborough (Ju. Parker, Temple, Ja. Parker, Stoddard) 3:28.32*; 14, O.C. 3:39.46; Mainland 3:44.28.
Winners listed for each event, plus local finishers.
Area teams: Atlantic City, Vineland, Mainland Regional, Egg Harbor Township, Oakcrest, St. Augustine Prep
*denotes meet record
200 medley relay-1, Shawnee (James Elmendorf, Alex Mesisca, Jon Burkett, Bryan Mattingly) 1:35.08; 9, Oakcrest, 1:40.20; 19, St. Augustine Prep, 1:42.85; 21, A.C., 1:43.47. 200 freestyle-1, Terry Li, Northern Valley Demarest, 1:38.65; 10, Anthony Czar, EHT, 1:43.85; 12, Patrick Flynn, St. Augustine Prep, 1:45.26. 200 IM-1, Dylan Sali, Bridgewater Raritan,1:51.00; 9, Johnny Malatesta, Vineland, 1:56.25. 50 freestyle-1, Sebastian Lutz, Pingry, 20.98; 10, Eddie Parks, Vineland, 21.84. 100 butterfly-1, Nick Marks, Gloucester Catholic, 49.23; 12, Parks, Vineland, 52.51. 100 freestyle-1, Zach Molloy, Toms River North, 45.98. 500 freestyle-1, John Nunez, Paramus Catholic, 4:30.66; 5, Anthony Czar, EHT, 4:44.27; 14, John Gregory, St. Augustine Prep, 4:48.19. 200 freestyle relay-1, Pingry (Lutz, Jamie Finnegan, Kamau Holston, Will LaCosta) 1:25.87; 2, Vineland 1:26.56; 5, St. Augustine Prep, 1:27.71; 12, Oakcrest, 1:29.64; 12, EHT, 1:30.40. 20, Mainland, 1:31.97. 100 backstroke-1, Sam Lynch, Ocean Township, 48.62*; 7, Malatesta, Vineland, 52.28; 11, Thien Le, A.C., 52.99; 13, Matthew Taccard, St. Augustine Prep, 53.54; 14, Flynn, St. Augustine Prep, 53.56. 100 breaststroke-1, Andy Schuehler, Audubon/Collingswood, 55.66*. 400 freestyle relay-1, Pingry (Lutz, Finnegan, Dorian Allen, LaCosta) 3:10.54.