by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School swimming teams have been fast off the blocks this season, with the girls winning all eight of their dual matches and the boys winning their first seven before a defeat to Seton Hall Prep Monday night.
Coach Ed Koenigsfest has no complaints about the Mounties’ efforts so far.
“I couldn’t be any happier,” he said after MHS’ win over Verona Friday, Jan. 11, at their home pool at Montclair State University. The Mountie girls raced to a 125-42 win, while the boys were victorious by a count of 119-46. “Both teams have gelled very well with the new freshmen and a couple of kids who were just coming out of the team who had been in school and didn’t swim before. So I couldn’t be any happier with how it’s all come together.”
While the teams have been swimming smoothly early, Koenigsfest knows his team has its biggest challenges coming up. The Essex County/SEC championship meet is slated for this Monday morning, Jan. 21, 9:30 a.m., at NJIT in Newark, and the state team tournament due to follow in early February. With those competitions on the horizon, the coach is constantly adjusting his lineup based on what is working.
“Now it’s just what’s the best and fastest combinations for us. That’s always a fun game getting towards counties and then states sectionals.”
Friday’s meet against Verona was an opportunity for the Mounties to tinker a little bit. The Hillbillies field a smaller roster, which leaves Koenigsfest room try new things.
“I had an idea how it would go just based on their numbers, so it was a good opportunity to give kids an [chance] to do events they don’t normally do,” he said. “And another chance for a cut at counties. So that’s what we tried to do today and we had good results so I was very happy. The kids swam very well.”
Justin Ellis was a good example of someone who dove in for a race he doesn’t compete in as much. Normally, Ellis swims the 100-meter breastroke, but Friday the MHS junior swam the 100- and 200-meter freestyle.
Meanwhile, Alex Petroff raced in the 50 freestyle and won it with a time of 23.86 seconds. While he has competed in freestyle races before, the sophomore normally swims the 100 backstroke.
Meanwhile, sophomore Caleb Foung took first in the 200 meter individual medley with a time of 2:15.39. It was the second win of his Mounties career, and the first in the 200 IM.
For the girls, sophomore Devon Muldoon added a first ever 500 freestyle win to her resume, along with a victory in the 100 backstroke. Freshman Lily Foung stayed in the 100 breastroke, winning that with a time of 1:12.63, while sophomore Millie Steffe notched her first ever win in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:24.70.
Friday gave Koenigsfest a chance to see how swimmers could fit in different places, but more than anything, the team came out healthy in the win. The team has depth, but you never want to lose swimmers during a season. Koenigsfest said there is no one person the teams lean on – they need everybody.
“You miss one person at a swim meet and that changes everything,” Koenigsfest said. “So everyone is the answer and that’s not just the political answer. Every point matters and we need everybody.”
Monday night saw the MHS boys take on their toughest competition to date, dropping their first dual match of the season to perennial powerhouse Seton Hall, 103-67.
Tommy White’s win in the 100 butterfly was the Mounties’ only first-place finish against the Pirates, who have won every Essex County championship since the team championship was reinstated in 1998. The Mounties’ 67 points scored is the highest of any Seton Hall opponent this season.
The Mountie girls swept past Mount St. Dominic, setting up tonight’s 5:30 p.m. showdown with Newark Academy as MSU, which may decide the SEC dual-meet championship for 2018-19; Montclair is 8-0 in league matches, while Newark Academy is 7-0.
Following this Monday’s county championship meet, the Mounties will close out the regular season with home dual matches against Newark Academy next Thursday, Jan. 24 and Livingston on Friday, Jan. 25, followed by a short road trip to Montclair Kimberley Academy Monday, Jan. 28.