BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP — The St. Augustine Prep boys swimming program provided a strong statement in its season-opening meet against a Cape-Atlantic League American Conference rival.
The Hermits hosted Mainland Regional on Wednesday, and this version of the perennial South Jersey power appears ready to match the standard it has set with years of success.
St. Augustine, the two-time defending American Conference champion, overwhelmed the visiting Mustangs 112-58 at Navone Pool. The squad started its latest championship chase with a dominant effort, one Hermits coach Jon Stinson hopes to build on throughout the winter.
“It’s exciting to see where your team is when you first get everyone back in the pool,” Stinson said. “We’re motivated and now we know a few things we need to fix.”
St. Augustine surged to a 43-19 advantage through three events. The team secured first- and second-place finishes in the 200-meter medley relay to set the tone, setting the stage for another impressive performance by Hermits standout swimmer Pat Flynn.
Flynn, who shared ThePress Boys Swimmer of the Year honors with brother, Jeff, last season, started his senior campaign with individual victories in the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke. The Absecon native’s freestyle win was particularly eye-opening.
Flynn finished in 1 minute, 46.63 seconds to hold off Steve Buzby, who set a Mainland record (1:46.83) despite settling for second place.
“To break a school record in the first meet of the season is special,” Mustangs coach Brian Booth said. “He faced impressive competition and that helped drive him. The fact that he still finished in second is another example of how strong this St. Augustine program is.”
St. Augustine, seeking its first state title since 2009, enters the season as a heavy Cape-Atlantic League favorite. Senior T.J. Merighi said his teammates understood the importance of taking care of business against a Mainland team that finished second in the American Conference last season.
“I honestly thought this meet would be decided by 10 points or less,” said Merighi, taking a moment to peer up at the lopsided result still showing on the scoreboard. “Mainland is always our toughest challenge, so this is a big win to start off my senior year.”
Now that the Hermits have cleared a significant conference hurdle, the team is focused on moving ahead.
“This gives us a lot of confidence,” Merighi said. “It provides a positive outlook early in the season.”
Colin McHugh (1:05.05) edged Mainland senior Chris McClintock (1:05.36) in 100 breaststroke, sealing a St. Augustine win in the final individual heat. The Hermits capped off the season opener with a win in the 400-meter freestyle relay.
Mainland was unable to secure an upset in the opener, but should contend once again in CAL. Mainland standouts Nolan Coyle (100 freestyle) and Brandon Truong (100 butterfly) earned individual victories.
“It’s always nice to get the season rolling, particularly when you open up against a team of this caliber,” Booth said. “From this meet, we can do a fair evaluation of where we are as a team and see what we need to fix moving forward.”
Mainland hosts nonleague opponent Clearview at 4 p.m. today in Linwood. St. Augustine returns to CAL action 4 p.m. Monday at Atlantic City High School.
200 medley relay—St. Augustine, 1:46.63 (Sam Newnam, Colin McHugh, Pat Flynn, T.J. Merighi); 200 freestyle—Pat Flynn, SA, 1:46.63; 200 individual medley—Chris McClintock, M, 2:06.3; 100 butterfly—Brandon Truong, M, 55.81; 100 freestyle— Nolan Coyle, M, 50.82; 400 freestyle—Steve Buzby, M, 5:06.83; 200 freestyle relay—St. Augustine (Brian Dougherty, Austin Campbell, Sam Sheppard, T.J Merighi); 100 backstroke—Flynn, SA, 59.34; 100 breaststroke—McHugh, SA 1:05.05; 400 freestyle relay—St. Augustine (Brendan Donnelly, Sheppard, Newnam, Flynn).