Aquatic aces: Prep wins second straight sectional title
For decades, the St. Peter’s Prep swim team was the best that Hudson County had to offer. There were tons of championships and hundreds of medals and accolades accumulated over the years. The Marauders were clearly the best thing to come out the water locally since Aquaman.
But it wasn’t enough. The Marauders needed more. They needed to tackle a new horizon, expand the borders, so to speak.
“We wanted to compete on the state level,” said head coach Luke Piede, who is in his sixth year as head swim coach at the school. “We knew that we had a pretty good program in the eyes of Hudson County, but we also realized what we could become, to see where we rank among the state.”
A year ago, the Marauders captured the New Jersey High School Invitational Sectional Swimming and Diving Championships for the first time, a victory that placed the program on the state map in terms of competitiveness.
Last week, the Marauders went back to the same tournament, and this time, they downright manhandled the competition, winning the team title over perennial state power Bergen Catholic by more than 150 points.v The Marauders placed first or second in eight of the 10 events held at the tournament, showing incredible team balance and depth in the process.
“We had two or three swimmers in every race,” Piede said. “It’s nice to win like this because it really shows the strength of the team. Plus, most of the team is made up of freshmen and sophomores, so we look to be better in the future as well.”
Piede said that this year’s victory meant more to the program than last year’s sectional title.
“Last year, there was an asterisk next to the win, because Bergen Catholic didn’t bring their whole team,” Piede said. “But this year, everyone brought their full teams and there were 25 teams there. There was no asterisk. We won it outright. It was a pretty crowded meet. But we held our own.”
Piede was really impressed with the performances of sophomore James LiVolsi, who won the 100-meter backstroke, took second in the 100-meter freestyle and was involved in several successful relay teams.
“He’s probably our top swimmer,” Piede said of LiVolsi. “He’s the guy who usually delivers for us when we need it.”
Freshman Pat Giamario, whom Piede called “a very hard worker,” won the 100-meter butterfly. Brian Kennedy won the 50-meter freestyle.
Three Marauders took home silver medals in the sectionals, namely Ryan Kearney (second in the 100-meter breaststroke), Justin Kraivanger (second in the 100-meter butterfly) and Denis Eagan (second in 200-meter individual medley).
Kraivanger and Kearney are both sophomores, showing the bright future of the program.
“They make our medley relay teams very strong,” Piede said.
Senior captain Mike Fitzmaurice is the one who “makes things come together,” according to Piede.
“I trust Mike like he’s an assistant coach in the pool,” Piede said of the swimmer who competes in the 200-meter freestyle and the 100-meter backstroke.
Eagan, a senior, has shown vast improvement this season, cutting as much as 12 seconds off his times this year.
“Having that much depth has given us a lot of options,” Piede said. “Every year, we talk about getting better, and this is what is happening. We don’t want to settle for this. We made a step up. Now, we want to take the step into the state tournament.”
Having already earned their place with the state’s top 20 teams, maybe the Marauders are poised for a quantum leap into the state’s elite. That would come with a few wins in the upcoming state tournament…
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