Freshman Amanda Nunan joined an already-talented Ocean City High School girls swimming team this year.

She wasn't in the background long.

Nunan became the Cape-Atlantic League's top distance freestyler, and combined with several others to lead the Red Raiders to their greatest year ever at 14-1. Ocean City reached the state Public B team finals and finished top-ranked in The Press Elite 11.

Nunan capped off the season by winning the 500-yard freestyle in 4 minutes, 51.93 seconds at the State Individual Swimming Championships at Gloucester County Institute of Technology on March 2. She was the only CAL girl or boy to win an individual state title at the event, which is commonly called the Meet of Champions.

Nunan, 15, is The Press Girls Swimmer of the Year.

"It's an honor. I'm really happy about it," said Nunan, an Ocean City resident.

The freshman was also second in the 200 freestyle at the MOC, nearly winning that race too in a sprint at the end. Her time of 1:49.66 was 0.25 seconds short of victory. The 200 freestyle, Nunan's lesser event, was held more than a half-hour before the 500 freestyle.

"I went in seeded high (first in both races), and I really wanted to go in and swim my best," Nunan said. "I was really excited to win the 500. I like longer races, because it takes me a while to get going. After the 200, that gave me confidence for the 500."

Also at the Meet Of Champions, Nunan was part of the Ocean City 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams, which finished third and second, respectively.

She swam the first leg of the 200 freestyle relay, combining with Gabby Breazeale, Aly Chain and Noel Styer to place third, just 0.60 seconds behind winner Hillsborough. Styer, Breazeale, Amber Glenn and anchor Nunan finished second in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:32.10, 1.56 seconds behind Hillsborough.

"I was so excited about the relays," Nunan said. "Everyone swam their best, and it worked out really well."

Nunan won the 200- and 400-meter freestyle at the Hackney High School Girls Invitational Swim Meet on Jan. 11, and the Frank Forde Cape-Atlantic League Individual Swimming Championships on Jan. 30. She set meet records in the 400 freestyle at the two meets (4:22.98 and 4:22.04, respectively). Both were at Atlantic City High School.

She took 200- and 500-yard freestyle races in Division B at the South Jersey Coaches' Meet on Jan. 25 at GCIT.

"Amanda was a driving force for the team," Ocean City coach Kate Merz said. "She was a role model. We knew we could depend on her. She's relaxed and quiet, but we she dives into the pool she's so competitive. When she needed to swim fast, we knew she would. She was a huge leader, even if she didn't know it."

The freshman's accomplishments continued in the state playoffs. Nunan lost only one individual race in Ocean City's five playoff meets. Even her one second place set a school record of 1:50.43 in the 200-yard freestyle as O.C. topped Haddonfield 95-75 in the South Jersey Public B final.

She swept the 200 and 500 freestyle in the 94-76 state semifinal win over Princeton, and in the 99-71 loss to Chatham in the state Public B final on Feb. 23 at The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township.

Nunan started swimming competitively at the age of 5 with the Ocean City C-Cerpents Swim Club. She's now a member of the Egg Harbor Township Seahawks.

Team of the Year

Ocean City (14-1) dominated the Cape-Atlantic League this winter, winning its fourth straight National Conference title at 6-0, and beating American Conference champion Mainland Regional 109-61 in a regular-season meet. In a return match, O.C. survived an upset bid by Mainland in a South Jersey Public B semifinal, winning 87-83.

The Red Raiders topped Haddonfield 95-75 to win the program's first South Jersey title. Ocean City beat Princeton 94-76 in its first state semifinal, and lost to three-time defending champion Chatham in the state title meet.

At the big meets, O.C. showed its center-lane power, winning nine of 11 races in Division B of the South Jersey Coaches' Meet, the first eight races in the Hackney Meet, and seven at the Forde CAL Championships.

"We had a really good combination of seniors, juniors and sophomores returning to lead the freshmen," Merz said. "We trained with the boys team, and we had a different kind of dry-land workouts. The girls wanted to do something special, and had the drive to do it."

Coach of the Year

Merz, in her second year, is The Press Girls Swimming Coach of the Year after leading Ocean City to its record-breaking season. The Red Raiders took over the top spot in The Press Elite 11 in midseason on Feb. 3 and held it from there.

Merz is a former Holy Spirit swimmer who was on the Spartans' state Non-Public A championship team of 2007. She swam for Division I Fairfield University in Connecticut.

The Red Raiders were 8-2-1 last year in her first season of coaching.

"It's very exciting, and a huge honor," Merz said. "We couldn't have done it without the entire team, and without assistant Brittany O'Donnell."

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