It’s been nearly 20 years since a relay record fell on the yards side of the Vineland High School boys’ swim team’s record board.
Michael Ruberti, Johnny Malatesta, Mark Novatorskiy and Eddie Parks are hoping to bring down two this weekend when they compete at the Meet of Champions at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology. Preliminaries will take place today with the finals on Sunday.
The foursome broke the school’s meter marks in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays at the Cape-Atlantic League Championships at the end of January, and they’re anxious to repeat the feat.
“It’s nice knowing that we’re the fastest relay ever in Vineland history, and I think we want to prove that again on the yards side of the board at states,” Novatorskiy said. “It’d be nice to have all four of the relay records ever. I think that’s what we’re going for.”
Only Ruberti, 18, was alive the last time Vineland took down a relay record in yards. That was the 200 free (1:27.19), which was set when he was a 1-year-old by Mark DePalma, Eric Pagliughi, Mike Pantalione and Angel Prado in 1995.
“From then till now, there hasn’t been anybody good enough to break those records,” Ruberti said. “And now we have four guys that came together, and I think we really have a shot to do it.”
That mark was the state record up until 2006, so the quartet knows there’s a tall task in front of them.
It might be even tougher to break the medley record (1:37.89), which has stood even longer. That was set in 1991 by Brett Buonadonna, Mike DePalma, Tom Forrest and Jeff Snyder.
“You look at the medley, Brett Buonadonna, (Mike DePalma), Tom Forrest and Jeff Snyder, those are like the best swimmers that ever swam here,” Parks said. “Just to be able to beat them, that means something.”
Coach Brian Newton has confidence his team can pull it off.
“The kids know they have it in their sights, they have a really good shot at breaking them,” he said. “We try not to talk about it too much, they know, and they talk about it once in a while in practice, which lets us know they’re ready.”
But Vineland isn’t just thinking about breaking records. The foursome believes they have a shot to win state titles in both events too.
The Fighting Clan is seeded fourth in the 200 free relay and eighth in the medley. The team’s best shot will be in the 200 free.
Today, they’re just hoping to put themselves in the finals as senior Tylar Warfle will be swimming in place of Malatesta, as coaches are giving Malatesta the best opportunity they can to allow him to make it to Sunday in the 100 backstroke, which immediately follows the 200 free relay.
“If we thought we couldn’t make it back with Tylar, we wouldn’t put the team in that position,” Newton said. “It’s a reward for Johnny for all the hard work he’s put in this year to get a time in prelims in the backstroke and for him to go after it.”
Malatesta, Ruberti, Parks and Novatorskiy finished seventh in the 200 free relay at last year’s meet, and also placed 14th in the medley.
Having swum on that stage together before is a huge benefit.
“It helps a lot,” Newton said. “They’re familiar with each other (and) they’re familiar with each other’s finishes so they can time the starts even better. All four have exceptional relay starts and their timing is very good and that comes from experience with each other.”
Since 2008, Vineland’s best finish in a relay at the MofC came in 2010, when Troy Cervini, Bryan Masilotti, Ruberti and Jerry Capriotti placed third.
This year’s quartet hopes to get at least in the top three in both relays.
(To be in the top three), “it’d just be unexplainable,” Malatesta said. “Speechless if we did that. It’d be awesome.”