Local high school girls swimming teams may have a better shot at winning a South Jersey title this year, thanks to an NJSIAA restructuring.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Assocation moved Mainalnd Regional down to South Jersey Public B this season.
The Mustangs reached the South Jersey Public A finals the previous two seasons, before falling to Vineland in 2011 and Cherry Hill East in 2012.
But the Cape-Atlantic League's chances of winning a South Jersey title don't end there. Ocean City is a surging team, while the defending sectional runner-up, Oakcrest, is off to a 4-2 start.
"I'm actually really excited for (Mainland) to be in our division because it's going to give us more competition and give the girls faster races," first-year Ocean City coach Katie Merz said Tuesday. "I think it's more fun when you have strong swimmers on both teams competing, and it's more fun for a coach to watch the girls swim fast."
Mainland (7-0) is ranked No. 4 in the Press Elite 11, while Ocean City (6-0) is No. 7 and Oakcrest (4-2) No. 11.
A team from the CAL has never won a South Jersey Public B title. The public divisions were divided into four sections in 2004.
Moorestown won the first year, while No. 6 Haddonfield (3-1) has won every season since except for 2011, when Cherry Hill West won. The Lions are now in Central Jersey Public A.
Mainland coach John Rakowksi scouts many of the teams in South Jersey and says he believes a team will need a balance of depth and top-lane swimmers to take down powerful Haddonfield.
"I believe that Ocean City and Haddonfield are major obstacles," he said. "(Ocean City) will be a very challenging meet for us in the regular season (on Jan. 29) and also in the sectional tournament if we see them again."
Oakcrest reached the final last year, but coach Scott Montgomery stressed the importance of receiving a high seed. The Falcons received the No. 2 seed last year. The team is off to a 4-2 start, but Montgomery says the toughest part of their schedule is yet to come.
All three coaches agreed that they are taking the second half of the season one meet at a time
"Right now we're just trying to put a lot of yards under our belts, make sure I feel comfortable going into the end of the season, and see if they are able to taper well when it comes to playoffs," Montgomery said.
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