The St. Augustine Prep boys team is used to being one step away from the state swimming championship meet, but it's brand new to the Mainland Regional High School girls team.
Both teams will try to take that step today.
St. Augustine (9-1), which is ranked second in The Press Elite 11, will meet No. 1 Christian Brothers Academy for the South Jersey Non-Public A championship at 6 p.m. at Neptune High School in Monmouth County. The winner will advance to the state final Sunday at The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township. CBA is widely considered the top high school team in the state.
Mainland (12-1-1), third in the girls Elite 11, will go against Kinnelon High School at 3:30 p.m. in a state Public B semifinal at West Windsor-Plainsboro South High School in Princeton Junction, Mercer County. The winner will go to the state championship meet on Saturday at TCNJ.
The Mustangs won the program's first South Jersey title last Wednesday, beating Haddonfield 87-83 at Gloucester County Institute of Technology for the S.J. Public B crown. Sydney Boswell led the way with two wins, and teammates Rylie Devine, Michaela Tighe, Samantha Boswell (Sydney's younger sister) and Harley Illingworth clinched it with a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
"It feels great to win the South Jersey title," Mainland coach John Rakowski said Sunday. "I'm so happy and proud for the girls because they worked so hard. We're anxiously looking forward to (today's meet) to see how we fare. We have a little information on Kinnelon, so we'll go up there and see how we play out."
St. Augustine has a history of making Non-Public state finals and semifinals. Last year the Prep lost to St. Joseph-Metuchen 104-66 in a state Non-Public A semifinal. The Prep won five Non-Public state titles (one B and then four A) from 2004-2009.
St. Augustine was once again southern New Jersey's top team, and even turned the tables on St. Joseph-Metuchen by beating the Falcons 95-75 last Thursday in a S.J. semifinal. The Hermits' Pat Flynn, T.J. Merighi, Sam Sheppard and John Gregory each had individual victories, and the Prep won two relays.
"We're definitely excited about (the St. Joseph) meet and we're excited about (today)," St. Augustine coach Jon Stinson said Monday. "I would say we're better than last year because we power-pointed higher.
"That's surprising, considering the graduations we had. They (St. Augustine) will definitely have to swim even better than our best (against CBA). Our guys are ready to step up and hopefully get some best times."
Kinnelon has two leading swimmers in Meghan Thompson and Mackenzie Hefferman. Other top scorers for the Colts include Nicole Caci, Christina Cirillo and Abby Fisher. Kinnelon beat Mendham 92-78 in the N.J. II final last Wednesday, even though the Colts only took first in four races.
Mainland, like Kinnelon, has a lot of depth. Morgan Walls, Megan Bralski, Casey Butrus, Liz O'Sullivan and Caroline Nagle score plenty of points for the Mustangs.
Christian Brothers Academy (11-1) lost only to powerful La Salle High School (Pa.) 96-74 on Dec. 21. CBA, who also are known as the Colts, topped Notre Dame (Mercer County) 117-53 in its S.J. semifinal. CBA beat St. Joseph-Metuchen 110-60 on Dec. 4.
Alex D'Anna, Rob Whitacre, Josh Berger, Dean Shafritz and Ryan Andresen lead CBA.
St. Augustine has several others who score, including Brian Dougherty, Sam Newnam, Andrew Burr, Matt Taccard, Austin Campbell and Chris Fralinger.
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