The state’s top two teams met in the Public A final at the College of New Jersey on Sunday, and they didn’t disappoint.
In the end, it was the seed Cherry Hill East, No.1 in the NJ.com Top 20, who walked away with a 90.5-79.5 victory over second seed and No.2 Bridgewater-Raritan. This is their third Public A title in the past four years, all won by Bridgewater-Raritan.
“Three years in four consecutive years is good, but it’s not about winning another one for us, it’s about winning the next one,” said Cherry Hill East coach, Joe Cucinotti. “We want each team to reach the highest level. We are losing 12 seniors from that team and every year it’s a different team with senior graduates and new freshmen. These boys wanted to win because they love to swim together, and that’s what makes our program even more special.
Cherry Hill East won seven of 11 individual events, Bridgewater-Raritan winning five. Bridgewater-Raritan won four of the top five, including a tie in the 200 IM and 200 MR.
Cucinotti strategically lined up his swimmers so he knew his team would fall behind early.
“I knew it would come down to this last event,” Cucinotti said. “We deliberately didn’t put our best sprinter in the medley relay because it wouldn’t have been worth it. The idea was to match our best swimmers in their best events and not put our third best butterfly swimmer against Trent Russano. They swam an incredible time which only justified my idea.
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Russano won the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly for Bridgewater-Raritan. Phil Qiu won the 100 and Michael Man tied with Cherry Hill East’s Nick Short in the 200 IM.
Bridgewater-Raritan led the entire competition up to the FR 200, when Cherry Hill East took a one point lead. Bridgewater-Raritan regained a one point lead after the 100 backstroke.
“These meetings are great,” said Cucinotti. “They bring a great crowd and are just as dedicated as we are. This time of year you want to swim against the best to get the best out of yourself. These boys got the best of our team today. It’s a great team. “
Down nine points after the 100 butterfly, Cherry Hill East had one run, winning five of the last six events. Mike Treglia won the 100 freestyle, Alex Volin got the 500 freestyle and Nick Pezzella won the 100 breaststroke. Cherry Hill East also won the 200 and 400 FR.
A 1-3-4 in the 100 breaststroke for Cherry Hill East gave him an 80.5-75.5 lead he wouldn’t give up.
“There has never been a meeting like this.” said Cucinotti. “The ties, the changes of direction. I only saw one race. It was a great swimming competition that I hope someone recorded. This meeting signifies what makes this sport special and it’s not very special for a lot of people, which makes it even more special.