The Toms River North girls swim team benefited from their senior leadership and showed their dominance in the Shore Conference this season.
In her sixth season as head coach, and second-time as Coach of the Year, Heather Barbalinardo says her depth and experience on her roster has helped her team stay competitive.
“We always have strong leadership,” Barbalinardo said. “The seniors always take on a strong leadership role and motivate the younger girls, and they see how much the newcomers improve every year so they want to do the same. We always have a big team with a lot of good swimmers so it makes it competitive within itself to get a spot on the team.”
The Mariners, led by a talented senior class of Alyssa Colasurdo, Morgan Runk, Sara Beers, Allison Baker and junior Katie Kilfeather, outscored defending champions Monsignor Donovan 388-325 at the Ocean County Championships at the Ocean County YMCA in Toms River.
They had six first-place finishes, including a sweep of the relays and a meet record to take back the title. Their 200-yard medley relay team of Kilfeather, Colsasurdo, Runk and Beers finished in 1:53.63 to erase 2007’s Monsignor Donvoan record (1:54.00).
“The example my seniors have set, and how hard they worked is huge,” Barbalinardo said. “They are going to be missed not just in the pool, but the way that they support each teammate. They all work great together and it feels great to be able to see the dedication and accomplishments they put in the past four years.
It was the 13th title for the team after winning 10 straight from 1998-2007 and claiming the title in 2010 and 2011.
They competed at the Shore Conference Championships, but lost 281-213 to eight-time defending champion Red Bank Catholic. Their 200-yard medley relay team comprised of Kilfeather, Colasurdo, Runk, and Baker sped to a second-place finish (1:53.72).
The Mariners beat West Windsor-Plainsboro South, 112-58, in an NJSIAA Central A first-round meet before falling to top-seeded sectional champion Hillsborough in the semifinals, 105-65.
Toms River North also won its fourth consecutive Class A South title after achieving a (7-2) record. Their only regular-season loss, 110-60, was from Red Bank Catholic on Jan. 2.
At the Meet of Champions, their relay teams had a strong showing. In the 200-yard medley relay, Kilfeather, Colasurdo, Runk and Beers finished in 17th place (1:52.68). They finished in 15th place in the 200-yard freestyle relay with the foursome of Runk, Hannah Leskow, Amanda Burke and Baker (1:42.14).
The Mariners had a lot of accomplishments and milestones this season, but Barbalinardo says its something that her team did outside the pool that stood out as the best memory of the season.
“The county meet is always a big meet for us, but after the hurricane, we did a lot of things,” Barbalinardo said. “We had a fundraiser for the victims and instead of doing a secret swimmer, we adopted a couple families from the elementary school and surprised the families with gifts.
“Each race my team swims is important, but I felt like this was a turning point for us, and brought our team closer.”