Shana McLaughlin felt completely different at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions on Saturday than a year earlier. It wasnt just because the Chatham junior had qualified in individual events.
McLaughlin had even more to prove than that.
“I did it last year on chemo. I can do it this year healthy,” said McLaughlin, who continued to train through treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma during her sophomore season.
“Last year, I was swimming for myself, for my family, just to keep my head in the right place. This year, I’m swimming for different reasons. … I felt no pressure last year. This year, it’s a completely different experience.”
McLaughlin will be back in the water at Gloucester County Institute of Technology for today’s finals.
She advanced to the consolation race of the IM and 100 freestyle, and will be part of a pair of Chatham relays.
The MOC girls finals will begin at 10 a.m., with the boys event scheduled for 2 p.m.
Morris County will be particularly well-represented in the relays.
Mendham is the No. 2 seed in both the medley and 400 free relays, where they are two-time defending champions.
Kinnelon is fifth going into both races.
The Cougars are the fifth seed in the 200 free relay – one spot ahead of Mountain Lakes – and seventh in the 400 free relay.
Allison Morel also took a leap forward at the preliminaries on Saturday, thanks in part to the enthusiasm of her Villa Walsh teammates.
Morel, a sophomore, had been the lone Vikings representative a year ago and finished just short of the final.
A year later, Villa Walsh will bring its neon green T-shirts to Sunday’s medley relay consolation – and Morel also qualified for the butterfly consolation.
“It’s a lot more fun when you have other people here,” said Morel, a Mendham resident who is hoping to break 57 seconds. “We’ve motivated each other and psyched each other up. We do well when we’re all happy.”
Pingry freshman Ingrid Shu, a Montville resident, earned the top seed in the 100 and 200 freestyle. Chatham junior Regan Kology won the top spot in the 500 free, and is also sixth in the 200.
Mendham senior Isabelle Cecere is second to Mount St. Mary senior Carly Whitmer by a hundredth of a second in the butterfly, and also fifth in the 200 free. Pope John sophomore Sarah Slepian, Mendham senior Celia Frick, and Kinnelon senior Abby Fisher are second, third and fourth in the IM.
Fisher is also the fifth seed in breaststroke.
Minutemen senior Maya Scheidl is fourth in the 100 free and sixth in the 50.
“Back in Mount Olive, everyone’s texting me. Swimming is getting more attention,” said Amy Nemeth, the Marauders’ lone MOC representative, shortly after qualifying for the 100 free consolation final. “It’s been a rough season, struggling with hundredths of a second. It’s good to look up and finally see the time that I wanted.”