Andrea Vazquez has had a special cheering section this week — her Kinnelon teammates.
Vazquez has been practicing separately from most of the Colts, who also swim for year-round clubs. But today they will all come back together at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions — and Vazquez is particularly determined to translate all those solo sessions into personal bests.
She is part of Kinnelon’s 200-yard freestyle relay, one of three to qualify for the Meet of Champions. The girls preliminaries begin at 10 a.m. at Gloucester County Institute of Technology, with the boys set to dive in at 2 p.m. The top 16 individuals and 24 relays will advance to Sunday’s finals.
Being with the team is part of the Meet of Champions fun for Vazquez, who was looking forward to designing T-shirts and having dinner with Kinnelon coaches Brian Boardman and Steve Papendick. But the Colts are hoping to break the school record in the 200 free relay for the third time in 10 days.
Kinnelon senior Abby Fisher finished second to Colleen Callahan of Atlantic City in the IM last year. She also won the consolation breaststroke in 1:05.2, the third-fastest time overall. She comes in as the top IM seed this year, more than three seconds ahead of Mendham senior Celia Frick and Sarah Slepian of Pope John. Fisher is the second seed in breaststroke, 65 hundredths of a second behind Vineland senior Rachel Bernhardt.
“It’s definitely less pressure going just for a relay, but everyone is counting on you,” Vazquez said. “They’d come up to me in the hallway and make sure I’m having a good time. They don’t want me to be lonely. They offered to come and swim with me. We all need to be in sync and focused on the same goal.”
The entire Mendham girls 400 free relay — Scheidl, sophomore Sara Cecere and seniors Isabelle Cecere and Celia Frick — returns for a shot at a third straight state title, coming in as the No. 2 seed — with Kinnelon sixth and Chatham eighth. All three schools, plus Mountain Lakes and Villa Walsh, qualified for the three girls relays. The Vikings had just a single entry last year, Allison Morel in the butterfly and breaststroke, but now have Morel and sophomore Carolyn Silverman as well as the relays.
Sophomore Ally Kleinsorgen will be the only Roxbury girl swimming this morning, with James Singewald in the afternoon. That’s just the same as a year ago, when Kleinsorgen formed Mount RoxSon with Amy Nemeth of Mount Olive and Jefferson’s Nikki Buglino — club teammates and the lone qualifiers from their squads. Though Kleinsorgen isn’t expecting a special T-shirt, she will be going to lunch with the Gaels coaches between sessions today.
“It’s more personal,” said Kleinsorgen, who will swim the 50 free and 100 backstroke. “When I go to these meets, I get to represent the other sports teams, like the football team or the ice hockey team or the track team while I’m there, and make them proud of me, just as I’m proud of them for their accomplishments.”
Chatham and Mountain Lakes will each send nine individuals to the Meet of Champions, the most of any Daily Record area team. Pingry freshman Ingrid Shu, a Montville resident, is the No. 1 seed in the 100 and 200 free. Cougars junior Regan Kology is the second seed in the 200 and 500 free.
The Lakers boys medley and 200 free relays are the best-ranked seeds of any team in the Daily Record area, while the Morristown boys earned that honor in the 400 free relay.
“It’s always a great way to end the season,” said Mountain Lakes senior Connor Gross, who hopes to break a minute in the breaststroke and get the USA Swimming sectional cut in the 50 free. “It’s the best way each individual swimmer can go out and show the rest of the state what we have. … It’ll be the last meet of my high school career, so I want to go out with a bang. It gives you a little more willingness to swim fast, and it gives you more pressure and motivation.”