EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Mainland Regional High School girls swimming coach John Rakowski expected Monday’s dual meet at Egg Harbor Township to be close.
So he prepared for the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference contest like a chess match.
The winning lineup that he designed didn’t take long to pull away from a young Eagles’ team. The Mustangs were up by 16 at the break after the 50-meter freestyle event and Mainland went on to win 105-65.
“I had my assistant Heather Sickler scout them last week against Ocean City, which was a 10-point meet (loss for EHT),” Rakowski said. “I did have some times to my advantage to do a good chess matchup and move some people around and see what we could do. That was one of our advantages today and the girls really swam well.”
In the beginning of the season, Rakowski was unsure of his team’s chances to three-peat as conference champion.
Mainland (3-0) used its depth to win conference titles in 2011 and 2012.
After losing six seniors to graduation and two of his top returnees to USA Swimming, he kept an open mind.
But with a sweep in the 100-meter butterfly to take a 52-26 lead without his top flyer, senior captain Sydney Boswell, the word depth started to resonate in the longtime coach’s mind again.
“It is, but it isn’t the same,” he said. “We’re not as strong depth-
wise in my opinion as we were last year or the year before. We have to develop some more third-lane swimmers and move some people around. That’s one of the advantages that I have as the coach. We have some versatility for kids to swim some different events and still be successful.”
The Mustangs took eight of the 11 events Monday, led by Boswell. Boswell won the 200 individual medley in 2 minutes, 34.22 seconds using her strengths in the backstroke and butterfly to gain a big enough lead to secure the victory. She also won the 100 backstroke easily in 1:09.88.
Junior Morgan Walls contributed with a come-from-behind victory in the 50 freestyle in 29.13, followed by sophomore Samantha Boswell, Sydney’s younger sister, in 29.23. Junior Casey Butrus strategically won the 100 butterfly. She stayed with the pack for the first 25 meters and gained enough momentum to win in 1:12.34. Walls and junior Liz O’Sullivan were right behind her. Harley Illingworth and O’Sullivan placed first and second, respectively, in the 400 freestyle, giving Mainland a 70-40 lead that it continued to build throughout the final events.
“Mainland just came in and looked really sharp,” EHT coach Mark Jamieson said “They 1-2ed us in a couple things on the individual side and that really pulled them ahead. We came back a little bit in the fight with our breaststroke and our last relays were strong. They put together a good meet lineup. Our girls swam hard, but the Mainland girls swam very fast. That was their best meet of the season (so far). So it was a good meet to come watch.”
While Mainland seeks to defend its conference title, the Eagles are rebuilding. Freshman Kirstin Rontos won the 200 and 100 freestyle events in 2:15.78 and 1:03.15, while freshmen Bailey Howarth and Agnes McDonough finished 1-2 in the 100 breaststroke.
“They are starting to build the foundation for the next couple of years,” Jamieson said. “Obviously we have some seniors that are scoring a lot of points for us. But as a team and as a whole, we are still definitely in the growing phase again. We are significantly better than last year, but unfortunately (for us) so is the CAL.”
Rakowski wasn’t just scouting EHT and Ocean City last week. He also checked out the Atlantic City and Vineland meet last Thursday, which the Vikings won 91-79.
Many consider Atlantic City and Vineland to be the conference favorites this year.
Mainland will face those teams back-to-back. The Mustangs swim at Atlantic City on Jan. 15 and host Vineland on Jan. 22.
“We’ve been working really hard and it obviously showed off in this meet,” Sydney Boswell, a 17-year old Linwood resident, said. “All the girls swam amazing and I couldn’t be more proud. If we continue to work hard, we’ll definitely give Vineland and Atlantic City a run for their money. I know we’re the underdogs, but we usually come out on top, and we’re coming for them.”
Contact Kelly Ashe:
200 Medley Relay-MR (Sydney Boswell, Casey Butrus, Samantha Boswell, Morgan Walls) 2:09.95; 200 Freestyle-Kirstin Rontos EHT 2:15.78; 200 IM-Sy. Boswell MR 2:34.22; 50 Freestyle-Morgan Walls MR 29.13; 100 Butterfly-Butrus MR 1:12.34; 100 Freestyle-Rontos EHT 1:03.15; 400 Freestyle-Harley Illingworth MR 4:51.29; 200 Freestyle Relay-MR (Rylie Devine, Butrus, Illingworth, Walls) 1:57.61; 100 Backstroke-Sy. Boswell MR 1:09.88; 100 Breaststroke-Bailey Howarth EHT 1:20.94; 400 Freestyle Relay-MR (Devine, Illingworth, Sa. Boswell, Sy. Boswell) 4:21.75.
Records-Mainland 3-0, EHT 1-2.