NEPTUNE — The St. Augustine Prep swimming team had not competed in a dual meet prior to Monday since Jan. 28.
The Hermits, who earned a bye into the state semifinal, used that extra time to recharge and become more prepared.
“We were just making sure everyone was getting in the pool and working hard,” junior Wil Carpenter said about the Hermits’ break. “We were just getting ready for this meet. It was nice having our eyes just on this meet and come out pretty well rested.”
Carpenter won the 50-yard freestyle and the 100 backstroke to lead the second-seeded Hermits to an 88-82 victory over third-seeded St. Peter’s Prep in the state Non-Public A semifinals at Neptune Aquatic Center.
The Hermits will swim against top-seeded Christian Brothers Academy in the state final Saturday at The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township. The Colts defeated St. Joseph (Metuchen) 96-74 in the other semifinal.
St. Augustine, the top-ranked team in The Press Elite 11, improved to 9-0. This season, the Hermits captured their first Cape-Atlantic League American Conference title since 2015.
“It was good,” St. Augustine coach Jon Stinson said. “I don’t feel we are where we need to be yet, but we have some time. So, that’s what I’m looking at. We had some good swims today. I think the other team did swim better, but we hung on.”
The Hermits’ Jack Levari won the 200 freestyle in 1 minute, 44.26 seconds, and Carpenter won the 50 freestyle in 21.95 to make the score 31-31 at the break.
Carpenter also won the 100 backstroke (53.30). Levari teamed with Dominick Sheppard, Dave Dileonardo and Shane Washart to win the 200 freestyle relay (1:31.53).
After those two races, the Hermits led 75-65.
“It’s been a remarkable season leading up to this point,” said Levari, 16, of Vineland. “We’ve been in some really tough spots and really close meets, but just trusting each other and our coach, we really got it done and we came through.”
Levari, a sophomore, also swam a leg on the second-place 400 freestyle relay team. After the Marauders’ Ceejay Larino won the 100 breaststroke, the Hermits led 82-74.
“We have been in tight situations before where it went down to the last relay. We knew it would be close,” Levari said. “We just had to trust ourselves and trust that we put in enough work to get it done.”
The Hermits’ Sheppard won the 100 freestyle (47.82), and Tyler Turpin won the 100 butterfly (52.81). Carpenter, a junior, swam a leg on the second-place 200 medley relay team.
St. Augustine had the winner in six of the 11 races.
“When we came in we knew it was going to be a good meet,” said Carpenter, 17, of Salem. “But when they came out, they definitely were much faster than we anticipated. It was a really close meet, but our boys were able to finish. It’s been a really great year, and I hope we can keep the momentum going.”
Carpenter credited the Hermits’ ability to win close meets to the competition it faced this season in Egg Harbor Township, Mainland Regional and Salesianum.
“We stepped up and did what we needed to do,” Stinson said. “We just need to find more. We’ve got a lot of work to do this week.”
Distances in yards
200 medley relay — SP (Gabe Orbe, Benjy Gomez, Tim Jimenez, Ceejay Larino) 1:38.38; 200 free — Jack Levari SA 1:44.26; 200 IM — Orbe SP 1:56.89; 50 free — Will Carpenter SA 21.95; 100 butterfly — Tyler Turpin SA 52.81; 100 free — Dominick Sheppard SA 47.82; 500 free — Orbe SP 4:44.37; 200 free relay — SA (Sheppard, Dave Dileonardo, Shane Washart, Levari) 1:31.53; 100 backstroke — Carpenter SA 53.30; 100 breaststroke — Larino SP 1:02.26; 400 free relay — SP (Henry Brown, Kevin Whitwork, Nick Wondolowski, Orbe) 3:19.30
Records — SA 9-0; SP 8-2-1