Vineland High School's Mark Novatorskiy swam his best at the right time March 1-2 at the State Individual Swimming Championships at Gloucester County Institute of Technology.
Novatorskiy, a 16-year-old junior and Vineland resident, finished fourth in the 100-yard freestyle, breaking school records in both the Saturday preliminaries and the Sunday final. He also placed sixth in the 200 freestyle, the top individual performance of any Cape-Atlantic League boy at the year's biggest competition, which is known as the Meet of Champions, or MOC.
The most memorable part of his weekend was leading off the Vineland boys 200 and 400 freestyle relays, both of which won state championships.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Novatorskiy is The Press Boys Swimmer of the Year for the 2013-14 season.
"It's definitely an honor," Novatorskiy said. "I want to thank the coaches and my teammates for pushing me.'
Novatorskiy was fifth in his 100 freestyle qualifying heat in 47.12 at the MOC. He topped that with a 47.00 for fourth in the Sunday final.
"The 100 freestyle was a great race for me," Novatorskiy said. "I really went out fast in the first 50, and the last 50 was just as fast. I've improved my flip-turns this year, so I'm able to push off stronger and faster. Instead of losing time on turns, I'm able to gain time."
His 100 freestyle times on both days topped the Vineland record of 47.19 set by Angel Prado in 1995.
"The record was definitely on my mind for about a month," Novatorskiy said. "I was about one second off it, so I was confident that ... I could break it. It should be up there a while."
The Vineland junior also was sixth in the 200 freestyle final in 1:43.21.
He combined with Johnny Malatesta, Dominick Merighi and Eddie Parks to win the 200 freestyle relay state championship in 1:26.15, and the 400 freestyle relay in 3:09.89. Both times were also school records.
"I was definitely very focused and looking for a win," Novatorskiy said. "My individual races were first, and then I focused on the relays with my teammates. It worked out perfectly.
"I was definitely pumped and knew we had a shot at two state titles. We were less than a second behind the leaders in both races on the first day, and we definitely stepped it up. It was a great feeling to stand on the podium. We'll definitely remember that the rest of our lives."
Vineland had a dual-meet record of 6-4 and is ranked ninth in The Press Elite 11 final rankings. The Fighting Clan's losses were to Egg Harbor Township, Mainland Regional and St. Augustine Prep in the regular season and to eventual state Public A finalist Cherry Hill East 104-66 in a South Jersey semifinal. But Novatorskiy had two individual wins in each of those meets.
"Mark is physically big and strong, and that helps him," Vineland coach Brian Newton said. "He definitely worked hard to get to where he needed to be. ... (At the MOC), he got us the lead with the relays and gave our kids the confidence. He definitely had a very busy day, and I'm glad he was up for it."
Novatorskiy was born in the Ukraine, and moved to Vineland with his family when he was 3. At 7, he began swimming at the Vineland YMCA.
He's also a crew rower for Vineland.
Team of the Year
St. Augustine Prep (8-2), which was ranked second all season in The Press Elite 11, beat top contender Mainland Regional 91-79 in Linwood on opening day. From there, the Prep cruised to the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference title at 7-0. St. Augustine won the South Jersey Coaches' Meet Division A title for the 10th straight year. The Hermits lost only to Delaware rival Salesianum School 86-84 and to Bergen Catholic on the power points tiebreaker after the two teams tied 85-85 in a state Non-Public A semifinal.
"We had a great year," St. Augustine coach Jon Stinson said. "It was great to see the team get faster as the year went on. The Coaches' Meet went well, and we swam fast, and it was great to win the CAL again. We had some great freshmen, and we picked up momentum for states. We'll have a lot back next year, which is good."
Coach of the Year
Shane McGrath took over the Ocean City boys swimming program this winter and led the Red Raiders to the CAL National Conference title. The O.C. boys team hadn't won a CAL title since 1993. The Red Raiders went 7-0 in the conference and ended up 12-3 and ranked 11th in The Press Elite 11.
"I'm absolutely thrilled," said McGrath when he was told of his selection. "There's some unbelievable coaches in our area, and they had great seasons. I'm honored and thrilled, and I hope to continue the progress we made. We wanted to continue the strides the team made under coach (Paul) Gallagher last year. The guys bought into the system and worked hard on their own."
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