ATLANTIC CITY - Holy Spirit High School seniors James Muller, Andrew Remy and several teammates put the Spartans' boys swimming team in the driver's seat for the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference title on Thursday.
Muller won the sprints and Remy took the distance races as Holy Spirit topped defending champion Cape May Tech 97-73 at the Dr. Martin Luther King Westside Complex pool. Spirit took the lead in the conference race.
Holy Spirit improved to 5-2 overall and 5-0 National. Cape May Tech is also 5-2, with a conference mark of 5-1.
"Everyone rose to the occasion," said Holy Spirit coach Nick Steffanci. "Most of the guys are first or second-year swimmers. Most are rowers who swim in the offseason, and they have a great work ethic."
The Spartans slowly built a 10-point lead after six races. They began to pull away in the 500 freestyle, which Remy won in 5 minutes, 54.25 seconds.
The Holy Spirit 200 freestyle relay team of Matt Stewart, Chase Malia, Eric Feuerstein and Muller followed with with a two-length win.
The Spartans took a commanding 85-55 lead as Stewart edged teammate Jack Borrone by 0.20 seconds in the 100 backstroke.
Last season, Cape May Tech beat Holy Spirit 107-63 on Dec. 9, 2011 and went on to win conference title.
"Last year I was a new coach and we weren't prepared for that meet so early in the season," Steffanci said. "I didn't even know about the guys on my own team, much less Cape May Tech. Other than losing a few swimmers to graduation, pretty much everyone this year is back. Having a month to prepare really helped."
Remy swam a personal best time of 2:06.59 in winning the 200 freestyle by two lengths. The 17-year-old Egg Harbor Township resident plans to join the Navy and become a rescue swimmer.
"This is huge, a big milestone for the team," Remy said. "That'll amp us up for the next couple meets. I had to break a barrier to get a personal best. It feels a lot better and it's really motivating.
"Now we have to keep swimming and execute (to win the conference)."
Holy Spirit's remaining conference meets are with Middle Township (away on Monday), Buena Regional (at home on Jan. 9), Cedar Creek (away on Jan. 15) and Pleasantville (away on Jan. 18).
Muller won the 50 freestyle by a half-length in 23.41 and took the 100 freestyle by two lengths in a personal-best 52.30.
"Everyone worked hard toward this and we were well prepared," said Muller, 17, of Absecon. "Everyone who needed to step up, did. We knew how much was riding on the meet."
Holy Spirit junior Harrison Gargel, a second-year swimmer, won the 200 individual medley in 2:22.81, his personal best by 10 seconds. Gargel was also second to Tech's Trevor Gehring in the 100 breaststroke in his best time by four seconds.
Gehring also won the 100 butterfly. The Hawks' other win was by Chase Bader, Mitch Ianeillo, Sean Gerber and Gehring in the 400 freestyle relay.
"We had about 20 personal bests, and this was our fastest meet of the year," Cape May Tech coach Matt McElroy said. "We ran into a really good team with a great coach. I talked to Nick, and he said his guys swam very well. When our guys see their times posted they'll feel better."
Contact Guy Gargan:
200 Medley Relay-HS (Matt Stewart, Chase Malia, James Muller, Eric Feuerstein) 1:52.03; 200 Freestyle-Andrew Remy HS 2:06.59; 200 IM-Harrison Gargel HS 2:22.81; 50 Freestyle-Muller HS 23.41; 100 Butterfly-Trevor Gehring CMT 59.96; 100 Freestyle-Muller 52.30; 500 Freestyle-Remy 5:54.25; 200 Freestyle Relay-HS (Stewart, Malia, Feuerstein, Muller) 1:38.88; 100 Backstroke-Stewart HS 1:09.25; 100 Breaststroke-Gehring CMT 1:11.15; 400 Freestyle Relay-CMT (Chase Bader, Mitch Ianeillo, Sean Gerber, Gehring) 3:46.69.
Records-Holy Spirit 5-2; CMT 5-2.