DEPTFORD TOWNSHIP — Mainland Regional High School seniors Sydney Boswell and Michaela Tighe finally got to push swimming coach John Rakowski in the pool at Gloucester County Institute of Technology on Wednesday.
The two were swimming in their third straight sectional final, while Rakowski was coaching his fifth. The top-seeded Mustangs won the final three events to knock off No. 2 seed Haddonfield, the defending champion, 87-83 for the program’s first sectional title.
“We definitely brought it,” 18-year old Boswell, a Linwood resident, said. “I couldn’t be any more proud of my team. We worked so hard for this. This is me and Michaela’s third year and I’m so happy we won it. We definitely deserved.”
Boswell led the surge by touching first in the 100-yard backstroke in 1 minute, 0.20 seconds and Megan Bralski was third in 1:02.28 to cut Haddonfield’s lead to 71-69. Sophomore Harley Illingworth, a transfer from Nebraska, took the 100
breaststroke in 1:16.92. Casey Butrus was third in 1:13.68 to give Mainland (12-1-1) a 79-77 lead going into the final event.
“I knew we needed to hang on to win the meet,” Rakowski said. “I knew (Haddonfield) saved one of their top guns, Emily Rollo. We had some top-to-bottom great swims by everybody. I’m so happy and proud for the girls.”
Junior Rylie Devine was set to lead off the 400 freestyle relay. Devine was disqualified from her second-place finish in the 500 freestyle due to a false start. Sydney Boswell, who usually swims the relay with younger sister Samantha Boswell and Illingworth, had already competed in four events. Devine was relieved to know Tighe was taking over.
“I was so mad that that happened so I wanted to win so bad,” Devine said. “ I was really pumped up and I gave it my all. That helped us a lot since Michaela always gets me through things. She got me motivated to swim faster and she always knows what to say. This is crazy it’s so exciting for all of us.”
Devine gave the Mustangs a slight edge in the first leg, while Tighe and Boswell stayed on pace to set up Illingworth to anchor Mainland to win in 3:39.37. The relay win clinched it for Mainland and the crowd erupted.
“When we got here, everyone was so pumped and you could feel the energy,” Illingworth, a 15-year-old Northfield resident said. “And with Riley getting disqualified, that pumped up our last relay and we had to win that. It was amazing. I left everything in the pool.”
Sydney Boswell was a double winner. She also won the 100 butterfly in a school-record 58.72 sdconds. Joanna Thomas, The Press Swimmer of the Year from 2005-2007, set the record at 59.05 in 2008. Samantha Boswell earned Mainland’s first victory of the night in the 50 freestyle (25.27. ).
Morgan Walls was second in 25.36 to tie it at 36. Caroline Nagle’s third-place finish in the 200 individual medley and Liz O’Sullivan’s second-place 500 freestyle performance also boosted the Mustangs, No. 4 in the Elite 11.
“Everyone swam out of their minds,” Rakowski said. “It’s very nice and rewarding (to finally win) because we did it by ourselves. We have no club swimmers. The girls believed in me, they believed in our program, they worked their tails off. They worked hard between the weight room and our dry-land workouts. Our starts, our turns, technique and mechanics were there. It was a great effort.”
Mainland had been on the losing side of four South Jersey Public A titles. The Mustangs were moved from Group A to B this year. They became the first Cape-Atlantic League team to win a S.J. Public B title since 2004 when the divisions were split into two. Haddonfield, No. 7 in the Elite 11, has won seven out of last eight years.
“ This is not only my senior year but this is the first time we ever won it,” Sydney Boswell said. “It makes me so happy that (John Rakowski) got pushed in the pool because we’ve been waiting to push that guy in the pool (for the past three years).”
Contact Kelly Ashe:
200 medley relay—H (Katie Kurtz, Abby Czerniecki, Jessie Cashman, Julie Sheehan) 1:50.74; 200 freestyle—Sophie Fontaine H 1:56.22; 200 IM—Emily Rollo H 2:15.06; 50 freestyle—Samantha Boswell MR 25.27; 100 butterfly—Sydney Boswell MR 58.72; 100 freestyle—Rollo H 53.57; 500 freestyle—Fontaine H 5:17.47; 200 freestyle relay—H (Jill Stone, Czerniecki, Rollo, Fontaine) 1:39.77; 100 backstroke—Sy. Boswell MR 1:00.20; 100 breaststroke—Harley Illingworth MR 1:16.92; 400 freestyle relay—MR (Rylie Devine, Michaela Tighe, Sa. Boswell, Illingworth) 3:39.37.
Records—Mainland 12-1-1, Haddonfield 9-3.