Haven Beach Dethrones St. Francis as Island Swim Club Champs

By David Biggy | Aug 21, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy The Haven Beach Club Hurricanes celebrate after capturing the Long Beach Island Swim Club Championship title on Aug. 15.

Long Beach Township — Claudia Primus has been with the Haven Beach Club swim team for four years; through the morning of Aug. 15 she had no clue what it felt like to be part of the team that won the LBI Swim Club Championship title. By 6 that evening, she was able to celebrate with her teammates.

“St. Francis is really good, and we’ve been trying to beat them for a while,” said the 12-year-old breaststroke specialist, who helped the Hurricanes accumulate 461 points to end St. Francis Community Center’s championship streak at four straight titles. “I was really nervous going into the last few relays, wondering if we could finally beat them. We got them this time, and it’s really cool.”

Other than delivering a complete team effort, the really cool part was witnessing the technical prowess of HBC’s 8- and 10-and-under crews as they helped surge the Hurricanes ahead at various points of the meet.

“The little kids on our team are really fast, and that’s where we won this meet,” said 16-year-old Ryan Dean, who’s been with the HBC squad for 10 years and punctuated the team victory by anchoring the 16-and-under freestyle relay’s win in the final event. “We lost to St. Francis in our dual meet two weeks ago, so we knew we’d have to work harder and keep getting after it. We just kicked it up a few notches today.”

After Zach Levin, Gabe Gemzik, Sophia Kiernan and Dean Forlenza won the 8-and-under medley relay and staked the Hurricanes to a lead, they went wire to wire without relinquishing it. First-place finishes by the 10U medley crew of Ryan Lee, Max Levin, Anthony Kanis and Jake Keltz, followed by another win by the 16U medley squad of Sean Walsh, Dean, Greg Lee and Liam Huy, Haven Beach had a four-point lead over the Sharks heading into the individual events.

Gemzik and Forlenza made it a seven-point advantage by sweeping the top spots in their respective heats of the 8-and-under butterfly, before Jack Moran’s first-place finish in the first heat of the 14U butterfly helped maintain the point spread, which had dwindled to one going into the backstroke events.

Another 8-and-under sweep by Zach Levin and Rhys Esibill and a 12-and-under sweep by Drew Vandersnow and Thomas Gamble pushed HBC’s lead over SFCC to five points, 205-200, and it remained five points coming out of the 8-and-under breaststroke, which was swept by Gemzik and Maddy Marais. However, St. Francis chipped away with wins by Ava Fields in the 10U breaststroke and Christopher Schumann in the 14U breaststroke, followed by a 16U sweep from Ethan Sackett and Elyse Donohue.

Heading into the individual freestyle events, the Hurricanes and Sharks were tied at 295 points. But HBC’s youngest swimmers came through once more, as Zach Levin and Esibill swept the top spots in the 8U free before Jake Keltz and Anthony Ricigliano delivered 15 more points in the 10U free, giving the Hurricanes the lead for good.

Cole Nemes, Declan Lustenberger, Jackson Hughes and Mya Pierson kept the Sharks in the hunt by sweeping the 14U and 16U freestyles, but thanks to second-place finishes by Sean Kahl, Scott Anderson, Huy and Ava Cottone in both heats of those events, Haven Beach’s lead was five points, 365-360, going into the free relays.

“I knew it wasn’t over yet and it would be a dogfight right until the last relay,” said HBC head coach Dan Dreher. “But I felt comfortable with the fact we had that much of a lead going into those last relays. Our 8’s and 10’s carried us, and they did it again in the free relays by giving us a lead that pretty much sealed it for us.”

Wes Weilgus, Max Keltz, John Malandro and Marais scored the victory in the 8-and-under free relay, before the 10U team of Max Levin, Vincent D’Amico, Ricigliano and Jake Keltz delivered what essentially was the knockout punch, giving the Hurricanes a nine-point lead into the last three events.

St. Francis teams won the 12U and 14U free relays before Huy, Lee, Kahl and Dean finished off the Sharks in the 16U finale.

“By the time I had to swim, I thought we had the meet won, but I was still going to swim my best so we could win that last relay,” Dean said with a smile. “We had a lot of exciting moments in this meet, and that was the best one – touching the wall in first and the whole team cheering. This was a big deal for us.”

Dreher said he had cracked down on the fundamentals following the dual-meet loss to St. Francis two weeks before.

“We had some sloppy mistakes in that meet, so I turned our practices more toward technique,” he said. “We had to focus more on fundamentals and technique and go less on the yardage. The whole team has improved tremendously the past couple of weeks, and it showed today.”

St. Francis head coach Emily Cherry, whose squad had won five of the previous seven LBI titles and finished with 454 points, credited HBC with rising to the occasion.

“Their 8’s and 10’s really did a great job for them, and it was a great meet,” she said. “I knew it would be a tight meet, and last relays would be the make-or-break point for one of us. This time it was us, but that’s part of the cycle. You win some and you lose some. They were winning for a long time before we had our run.

“But, all in all, everybody swam their best, there was good sportsmanship from every team, and everybody was cheering for the whole meet. So it was a great meet all around, no matter which team won.”

Barnegat Light Yacht Club finished third with 348 points, just ahead of Brant Beach Yacht Club in fourth with 345. Surf City Yacht Club was fifth with 292 points.

— David Biggy


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