by Andrew Garda
When the top-seeded Montclair High School’s boys swim team took to the pool at Montclair State University’s Panzer Athletic Center Monday night to take on fourth-seeded Livingston in the semifinal round of the NJSIAA North 1, Group A tournament, they weren’t just looking to win.
MHS wanted to dominate, and they did just that with a wire-to-wire 134-36 win over the Lancers, winning all 11 events and taking a healthy share of second- and third-place finishes as well.
The Mountie boys will swim for the sectional championship tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 14, 5:30 p.m., against third-seeded River Dell. The meet will be held at a neutral site, Passaic County Tech in Wayne.
The team visited PCT Monday afternoon prior to the semifinal meet, both to cheer on Montclair’s girls team — who was ousted from their state tournament bracket after falling, 93-77, to the host Bulldogs — and to get an early scout on River Dell, who defeated the hosts, 90-80.
Head coach Edward Koenigsfest said he wanted his team to know what they’d be facing, in this case River Dell, who beat PCTI 90-80.
“At the meet we just watched earlier with River Dell and PCTI, there was no joke there. It was a tight meet,” Koenigsfest said. “So I said to the boys, regardless of the competition that’s coming into the pool, you need to swim above and beyond that, because that’s our next step.
“So they went in there, they went in there fierce, they went in there hard, and they went in to do some good stuff. “
Perhaps the best example of that was Jarrett Driever’s win in the 500-yard freestyle. The Mounties swept the top three places to earn maximum points, but Driever was head and shoulders above the field, 25 seconds ahead of second-place. Driever, who also won the 200 individual medley, led from the first stroke, and kept a blistering pace in the pool right until the end.
Other individual winners for Montclair (9-0) included Tommy White in the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly, Justin Ellis in the 100 freestyle, Alex Petroff in the 200 freestyle, Spyros Salatas in the 100 backstroke, and Caleb Foung in the 100 breaststroke.
The Mounties also swept all three relay events, with Driever, Leo Powers, Marcos Gutierrez and Mizell McEachin winning the 200 medley relay in 1:42.77; Petroff, McEachin, White and Salatas capturing the 200 freestyle relay in 1:33.97; and White, Petroff, Ellis, and Salatas clocking a 3:35.97 to cap off the meet and take home first in the 400 freestyle relay.
More than once this season, Koenigsfest spoke about how hard it is to pinpoint just one person on the team as the dominant swimmer. He has consistently said this is a group that is selfless and all work with the mentality that the team comes first.
“It was just great seeing them all strong, all together and just being that tight knit unit,” he said of the win over Livingston. “So, I was happy to see that because they’re not worried about themselves, they’re worried about the team. And that is what we’ve been kind of focusing on the whole time, so I’m happy to see it coming together.”
Now the team will turn its attention to River Dell, the No. 3 seed in the bracket who have won 11 of their 12 dual meets this season.
“All the boys came with me today, they all watched, saw what was coming down, so they know what they’re up against,” Koenigsfest said. “So there’s no surprises on that end. Our toughest meet so far was Seton Hall [an 87-83 win in the season-opener Dec. 19], and hopefully it’s going to be the same tough meet on Friday. In between then, it hasn’t always been the hardest. So I tell the guys, you’ve got to stay focused, you’ve got to keep working hard regardless of who swims with us. Today they showed it didn’t matter who they’re swimming against, they’re just going to go the best they can and just make a statement.”
As for the girls, Koenigsfest said that while the outcome that afternoon was disappointing, the season has been anything but given the fact that they only lost one meet all season long, finishing the year 9-1 with a bucket full of accolades, most notably the program’s first Essex County championship since 2009.
“They got a county title, we had two MVPs from that meet, set meet records, had Meet of Champions cuts,” Koenigsfest said. “The girls have done everything and more than I could have asked for, so, I’m very happy with them. They all work very, very hard and they had a great season, they really did.”
Junior Devon Muldoon led the way, as has often been the case this season, winning the 200 individual medley and the 500 freestyle, while freshman standout Ela Habjan also won two individual events, the 50 free and the 100 backstroke.
Both Muldoon and Habjan were part of the 400 freestyle relay team along with Sol Jordan and Mia Padberg, which won with a time of 3:50.17.
The future looks very bright for the Mountie girls as well, as both Muldoon and Habjan are back next year, leading a very young and talented group of girls back to the Panzer Pool next season.