Their pools are separated by less than three blocks. Their swimmers have grown up together—many share the same rooms in school and are Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA (FSPY) teammates.
But Wednesday night, friends became rivals for a few hours at the Highland Swim Club on Martine Avenue.
The Highland Swim Club avenged last year’s loss to Willow Grove with a thrilling 281-250 victory. The big crowd, many of whom had to be creative to find a parking space outside the club, lined the pool to the very end.
The teams roared with each wild finish in each relay. Teammates screamed for each other. Some parents had to look away to ease the tension.
This is what rivalries are about.
“It was a nice win for the kids. We’re next door neighbors,’’ said longtime Highland coach, Bill Reichel. “There were so many kids who did very well. The younger aged kids did very well.’’
Willow Grove’s Katie Musso won the 9-10 IM in 1:28. Teammate Matt Auda won a couple of events, including the 9-10 IM in 1:27.53. Alex Skoog won the 11-12 50 free for Willow Grove and teammate Ryan McKenna won the same race for the 13-14 age group.
Highland’s Kelsey Rossi, who’ll be a senior in the fall at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High, won the 15-17 100 IM in 1:11.57. Zach Peart captured the 15-17 medley for Highland. Sophia Iacona won the 6-under freestyle in 20.72.
All of the points were critical.
“A lot of kids look forward to it, especially the kids who are 12 and under,’’ said Peart, who’ll swim at George Washington University in Washington DC. “They really enjoy it. We have to keep the intensity. We swim on the same club teams at the Y and know each other pretty well.’’
Willow Grove coach Christine Marino said the meet’s atmosphere was great for a summer meet.
Marino knows about big meets. She swam for high school power Mount St. Mary Academy and went on to compete at The College of New Jersey in Ewing. She’s in her third year as head coach of the Barracudas. The loss was her first in 14 meets as head coach of the team.
“It’s a fun meet that we’re in,’’ said Marino, a Scotch Plains resident. “The crowd makes it interesting. It keeps everybody on their toes. Everybody had great efforts. It was a good meet.’’