LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP — The Southern Regional High School boys and girls swimming teams and their fans never stopped cheering throughout the double-dual meet Tuesday with Toms River North at the St. Francis Community Center pool.

The Rams teammates hugged each other, and the Southern coaches high-fived their swimmers as they walked past them following races.

Toms River North won the boys meet 101-69 and North took the girls meet 91-73.

But this time it wasn’t all about the outcome.

The occasion was Southern’s first meet at its home pool since Hurricane Sandy. The St. Francis pool was re-opened on Jan. 7 following water testing, and Southern and neighboring rival Barnegat began practicing there again.

“My big goal was to have everybody swim today,” Southern boys swimming coach John Schulze said. “We have 35 on our roster and they all got to swim. We love to swim at home. We have a fast pool.”

The Southern boys got wins from Ryan McHugh in the 100 butterfly and Dan O’Hara in the 100 breaststroke.

“It felt good to be back in our home pool,” said O’Hara, 16, a junior from Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island. “I felt like we’re in good shape and I dropped 0.15 seconds off my best time. I don’t think anyone got discouraged this year.”

The Rams girls team of Becca Phillips, sister Ali Phillips, Kellie Gresham and Bethany Hartney won the 400 freestyle relay.

“I’m pleasantly shocked by how they swam today,” Southern girls coach Bill Entrikin said. “We had a lot of seniors coming back with personal bests, and you don’t see that when you haven’t been in the water. I credit that to our dry land workouts. We had coed weight training with the boys team. We probably had a lot of girls who never touched a weight before. It’s paying off. We made the most of our time not in our pool. We’re grateful to the Ocean Club for their help.”

Several girls qualified for the Shore Conference Championships later this season.

“We’ve worked really hard the last two weeks,” said Katie Loftus, an 18-year-old senior from Harvey Cedars on LBI. “You look over and you see your teammates cheering and you find a kick you didn’t know you had.”

When Hurricane Sandy left Southern and Barnegat without a home pool, both schools made arrangements to practice on a limited basis at the Ocean Club in the Cedar Run section of Stafford Township. Barnegat found some additional pool time at another facility.

“I won’t say it was the only pool available, but we felt we had to keep the practices close in the community,” Southern athletic director Chuck Donohue Jr. said last week. “We had people whose houses were displaced. It would have been difficult to put people on a bus and go to Atlantic City or Toms River, even if the time was available. The Ocean Club was right down the road on Route 9 and the kids could get there easily.”

Southern hoped to back into its home pool sooner, but it didn’t happen.

There was never any damage to the pool itself from the hurricane, but work needed to be done on the heater, which took on salt water. Also, water got underneath the building, and work needed to be done to make sure it was structurally sound.

“It was a great day for us to come back (on Jan. 7),” Schulze said. “The first three practices we were able to bring up the swims and we worked on starts and turns.”

Southern had postponed its December meets, while Barnegat had three double-duals before St. Francis reopened. The Bengals boys team beat Manchester Township 110-53 on Jan. 10 in its debut at St. Francis. Southern opened up the season the same day against Jackson Memorial at Ocean County College. Southern lost the boys meet 113-57 and the girls meet 100.5-69.5.

“Getting back in our pool felt like the first day of practice,” said Cody Dentroux, 16, a junior from the Manahawkin section of Stafford Township. “The first meet was exciting. We have a lot of new swimmers. I’m super-glad the meets were postponed because we’re not in midseason shape.”

Southern still will have a season. “All of our (Shore Conference A South) division meets will be held, and as many of the others as possible,” Donohue said. “Maybe it’s not the best of conditions but you still have to go when things are not going your way. Our community was rocked by Sandy, but we’re coming back.”

Contact Guy Gargan:


Toms River North 91,

Southern Regional 73

At St. Francis Aquatic Center (Brant Beach, yards)

200 Medley Relay— TRN (Morgan Runk, Shayna Butera, Alyssa Colasurdo, Allison Baker) 1:59.96; 200 Freestyle—Amanda Burke TRN 2:06.71; 200 IM—Katie Kilfeather TRN 2:34.83; 50 Freestyle—Colasurdo TRN 26.10; 100 Butterfly—Runk TRN 1:05.95; 100 Freestyle—Baker TRN 57.80; 500 Freestyle—Gabby Hernandez TRN 5:49.14; 200 Freestyle Relay—TRN (Colasurdo, Burke, Kilfeather, Baker) 1:48.89; 100 Backstroke—Runk TRN 1:04.86; 100 Breaststroke—Shayna Butera TRN 1:20.35; 400 Freestyle Relay—SR (Becca Phillips, Ali Phillips, Kellie Gresham, Bethany Hartney) 4:10.31.

Records—SR 0-2.

Toms River North 101,

Southern Regional 69

At Southern Regional (St. Francis Aquatic Center), yards

200 Medley Relay—TRN (names unavailable) 1:48.67; 200 Freestyle—Will Molloy TRN 2:03.15; 200 IM—Zack Molloy TRN 2:16.41; 50 Freestyle—Matt Kazanowsky TRN 23.22; 100 Butterfly—Tyler Rowe TRN 1:02.35; 100 Freestyle—Ryan McHugh SR 56.35; 500 Freestyle—W. Molloy TRN 5:22.83; 200 Freestyle Relay—TRN (names unavailable) 1:38.27; 100 Backstroke—Kazanowsky TRN 57.55; 100 Breaststroke—Daniel O’Hara SR 1:08.45; 400 Freestyle Relay—TRN (names unavailable) 3:40.52.

Records—TRN 7-0 (6-0), Southern 0-2 (0-2).

Note: TRN is the Shore Conference A South champion.