By Rich Fisher | Correspondent
No one expected the St. Rose boys’ swimming team to beat Pingry in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Non-Public B championship meet Feb. 21.
And no one on the St. Rose team particularly cared.
SEE A PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE MEET, HERE.
Just the fact the Belmar-based school was competing for a championship at The College of New Jersey in Ewing was a landmark step for the program.
It was the first time St. Rose ever made it to the finals, something not lost on the competitors.
“This meant a lot,” senior Jeff Mahon said. “It’s my last season, my last chance. I put a lot of work into this.”
“It’s amazing, we’re so excited to be here,” said Jillian Miller, now in her fourth year as the boys’ team coach. “At the beginning of the season we didn’t really expect to go this far and we are so happy we did get this far. They did what they needed to do to get here. Just to be here is monumental for our program. Pingry’s an amazing team; just to be in the same pool with them is an honor. It’s a cool thing.”
The fact that the Basking Ridge school won the meet, 129-41, was of little consequence to the Purple Rose swimmers. Pingry has established a dominance rarely seen in New Jersey, as it became just the fourth team in history to win nine straight state championships.
Just to compete against such a power was exciting for St. Rose, which finished the season 7-6.
“It’s cool to swim against them,” said Mahon, who belongs to St. Rose parish. “You definitely know these swimmers are going to the next level in college. It’s cool to know where you stand against them.”
One guy who can definitely hold his own against Pingry is junior Liam Cosgrove, who won the 200 freestyle in 2:02.47 and was second in the 100 fly in a 51.69. His time was .01 second slower than Pingry’s Leighton Mayers.
Cosgrove is a big-time club swimmer who finished fourth in the 100 fly and sixth in the 100 back at last year’s Meet of Champions. He won the 100 fly and 100 back in the Non-Public B semifinal win over Newark Academy, and won the 50 free and 100 fly in the Shore Conference Tournament.
He will be competing in the 50 free and 100 fly in this year’s Meet of Champions and is looking to win the fly “as redemption for last year.”
For Cosgrove, however, reaching the state final as a team is more fun than going after a championship as an individual.
“This was pretty great, especially since I had my whole team backing me up,” he said. “It was great to have everyone here. With all the commitment they had this season, they just kept getting better and we got here. It’s really great to see the commitment everybody has to going to practice, getting better, doing their hardest every week.”
According to Miller, it is Cosgrove who sets the pace. Struggling to find words to describe his value, she said with a laugh “He’s like a big glue … a big spot of glue.”
That was the coach’s amusing way of saying that Cosgrove keeps things together.
“He’s definitely our starting point,” Miller said. “A guy like this is not just about talent. He’s counting (time) for our C lane 500, he’s the loudest person on the pool deck everywhere we go. He’s always encouraging everybody to be swimming the best they can.
“It’s not only his talent drawing attention. He’s the best teammate you can ask for. He’s coachable, he helps the kids out, he’s encouraging.”
Cosgrove, a parishioner of St. Mark, Sea Girt, looks around and sees some pretty good talent coming back with him next year. Mike Kinsel, Brendan Meikler, Brody Maypother, Ethan Riozzi-Bodine, David Ackerman, Ethan Coakley, Dylan Ventura, Luke Winkelman, Ryan Loftus, Frankie Bellezza and Tanner Long all picked up points against the Big Blue in either individual or relay events. All but Long will return next year.
“It’s very exciting for next year, especially since we may have a lot of incoming freshmen, too,” Cosgrove said. “Ethan Riozzi-Bodine is a great swimmer and he’s very committed. Frankie Belezza and David Ackerman, the freshmen who came in this year, were some of the most committed. Brody Maypother is a sophomore this year, he transferred in and he’s killing it as a sprinter. Luke Winkelman is our distance and breast stroke guy.”
They all played part in the historic season, along with seniors Noah Canderozzi, Connor Cusak, Chris Kinsel and Mahon. They helped build the foundation.
“When I got here we were definitely struggling,” Mahon said. “These past few years we picked it up, got a lot better. We got a lot of fast swimmers.
“I think they’re gonna get better and better each year. They keep getting a lot of new swimmers and a lot of new talent.”
It is exciting for Miller, a former standout swimmer at Ocean Township High School and Montclair State University who now competes in triathlons. She saw things building, as St. Rose reached states last year and got knocked out in the first round.
“We had two kids leave hockey and basketball that came to swim this year,” she said. We’re working with them all year round, all of a sudden we start winning meets.”
Then came a second-place finish in the Shore Conference Meet.
“That was huge,” Miller said. “To be looked at as that caliber, that was our head turner. When the power points came out an we were second in states, we were like ‘Yes!’ We were so excited. It was a big deal.”
So was swimming in the finals, no matter what the result. [[In-content Ad]]