BEACON – Sure, there is the excitement of success; the jubilation in knowing that years of effort have manifest in a championship.
Yeah, the plaque is nice and all. As was the adulation from winning the Section 1 Conference 3 boys swimming title on Saturday.
But for Wappingers, the goal has always been brownie points.
Not long after the team was announced the tournament victor, Mama Nunez removed the lid from a container and the boys raced toward her, digging in for chocolate fudge brownies. No official word yet, but they might have set a record time in that sprint.
“It started last year,” sophomore Jonathan Nunez said of his mom, Madelyn Nunez. “She bakes pastries and brings them to our meets. If we win, we get them. If we don’t, she gives them to the winning team. So that’s been a motivating factor.”
The crew has been swimming in sweets this season as Wappingers went undefeated in its league and captured a third straight conference title at Beacon High School.
Wappingers, a combined cadre of swimmers from John Jay and Roy C. Ketcham High School, continued to dominate and pulled away in this meet, racking up 423.5 points. They finished ahead of Ossining (302.5) and Our Lady of Lourdes (282). Beacon placed fifth with 238 points.
“The brownies are the best part of winning,” junior Thomas McCaffrey joked. “Gotta have the food!”
The team, apparently, also accrued enough actual brownie points to get away with shoving coaches Renay Cerrato and Chellie Milanese into the pool as part of its celebration.
“I looked forward to that part the entire time, even more so than I did the swimming,” said junior Chauncey Nicholas, who won the 100-yard butterfly. “That was icing on the cake.”
If that’s so, the figurative cherry on top was Wappingers having eight swimmers qualify for the Section 1 swimming and diving tournament, which begins with the diving championships on Friday at SUNY Purchase. The swimming runs Feb. 7-8 at Felix Festa Middle School in West Nyack.
Kyle McGregor took second in the 200 freestyle (1:54.29) and fourth in the 100 freestyle (51.86 seconds), both times meeting the section qualifying standard. His twin Matt McGregor placed third in the 200 individual medley (2:10.59) and Adrian Smith fourth in the 50 freestyle (23.8). McCaffrey was second in the 100 freestyle (50.54). Nicholas, who clinched a berth to the state tournament earlier this season, completed the 100 butterfly in 52.66.
Nunez took fourth in the 100 butterfly (56.19) and sixth in the 100 freestyle (52.43). Jarrod Rizzi won the 100 breaststroke in 1:06.60, took third in the 100 freestyle (51.09), and was part of the winning 200 freestyle relay with Smith and the McGregor brothers. Freshman Alex Chan also advanced, taking second in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.88).
Smith gave up swimming last year to try track and field, but he soon changed his mind. This, he said, was validation of that decision.
“It’s been exhilarating,” Rizzi, a Ketcham senior, said of Wappingers’ run. “We were good last year, but this year has been exponentially better.”
The team lost use of the pool at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh for more than a week when its heating system malfunctioned on Jan. 9, Cerrato said. That, along with the recent snow days, cut into Wappingers’ practice time.
“And they’ve still done really well,” said Cerrato, whose team went 8-0-1. “We couldn’t be more proud.”
Lourdes’ quartet of Christian Thomas, Jason Boyko, Stephen Baker and Jason Cruz won the 200 medley relay in 1:42.26 and the 4×100 relay (3:18.02), earning berths to the sectional tournament in both. Thomas also took first in the 200 IM (1:58.38) and the 100 backstroke (52.91), Boyko won the 500 freestyle (4:59.22) and took third in the 100 butterfly (54.45), and Cruz placed first in the 50 freestyle (22.96) and 100 freestyle (50.40). Beacon’s Sean Landers took second in the 50 freestyle (23.49).
Wappingers finished 19th in last year’s sectional championship, which Horace Greeley won. North Rockland, Fox Lane and Clarkstown will also be among the contenders, Milanese said. But Wappingers, buoyed by the confidence of a sparkling season, expects a much better showing this time.
“They’ve given us no reason to doubt them,” Cerrato said. “This group is dedicated, works hard, and they’re kind and considerate…”
Hold up. That was said shortly after exiting the pool she was pushed into.
“But,” the coach said, “they were considerate enough to get permission first.”
Jonathan Nunez pitched the idea to his teammates and, on Thursday, they asked the coaches if they would mind taking a dip… should the team win a title. An agreement was reached and, in anticipation, Cerrato and Milanese brought a change of clothes and put their cell phones away.
“That’s what this team is about, more than anything,” Rizzi said. “We find ways to have fun.”
And earn brownies.
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4