By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
LINWOOD — Why go through the disappointment of losing a high school swimming meet if you can just go out and win them all? That seems to be the kind of carefree attitude the Mainland Regional girls team has been swimming with all season, and the results have been impressive.
The Mustangs kept their undefeated record intact on Monday afternoon with a dominating 108-62 win over third-seeded Clearview. Second-seeded Mainland advances to Thursday’s South Jersey Public B championship meet at GCIT against either top-seeded Moorestown or No. 4 Ocean City. Moorestown, Ocean City and Mainland all came into this week ranked in the top 20 in the state according to nj.com, making for one of the more loaded sectional brackets.
But the Mustangs haven’t cared one bit all season about who they are playing, what their opponent’s record is or where they are seeded in a particular tournament. Mainland — which has failed to score at least 100 points in just one meet this season, a 97-72 win over Egg Harbor Township, is making a return trip to the sectional title meet for the first time in seven years.
“The girls really stepped it up today. We had two new state (individual) qualifiers and a lot of best times out there. I think overall we did well. We were expecting to do well at the end of the season. We usually do well toward the end of the season, especially in the playoffs, so it was really nice to see that,” said star junior Katie McClintock, who confirmed after the meet that she had given a verbal commitment to the University of Wisconsin. “There definitely is some pressure, but I think we handled it well. The girls went in today with a positive attitude and a lot of confidence, and we’re going to have that same attitude on Thursday. We’re not so used to making it this far; this is the first time we’ve made it to a South Jersey final in seven years, so it’s really nice to have that this year and have such a good team.”
The Mainland girls swimmers will be joining their counterparts on the boys side, as Mainland beat Shawnee earlier on Monday to advance to its sectional final against Ocean City. The boys team also has won several state championships the past few years, so Gallagher said it’s nice that the girls are finally getting some recognition, as well as the opportunity to swim for a trophy.
“Coming in this year we knew were going to be getting some good girls in all different grades. I don’t think any of us really expected this season to happen the way it has, we’ve just been killing it as a team,” said Gallagher, who reached state individual qualifying times in both the 100 and 200 freestyle events for the first time in her career. “It’s kind of nice to be in the spotlight a little bit. We love going to the boys’ (playoff) meets in the past and whenever we go we’re so supportive, and vice versa, they are the same way with us. It’s great. It feels really good knowing all this hard work is paying off.”
“Grace has been awesome,” McClintock added. “I was so proud of her today, getting her state cuts. She’s always been a great contributor and a really hard worker, and it’s great to see it all paying off for her. I’m really proud of her.”
Mainland (13-0) scored wins in nine of the 11 events, led by McClintock, who scored a pair of individual wins in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM, and also was a part of two winning relay teams. The Mustangs also got wins from Monica Iordanov in the 50 free, Madeline Falk in the 100 butterfly, Gallagher in the 100 free and Summer Cassidy in the 100 backstroke. Sophie Sherwood, Rileigh Booth and Julia Goodman also teamed up with Gallagher to win the 200 free relay.
Gallagher said she was thrilled that she was able to reach a personal goal of qualifying for state individuals during the big win by the Mustangs.
“I’m super excited about that. I was talking with coach (Mike) Schiavo a little bit before this meet, saying we’re really close to (qualifying times) and that we might get it. I haven’t swam the 200 free in a while. Looking up at the board and seeing it, I’m really excited,” she said. “I learned how to swim the summer before going into high school. I didn’t know how to swim at all, it looked like I was drowning, basically. I never thought I would make it this far. To be able to see my own progress like this is really cool.”
What’s next: Mainland takes on either No. 4 Ocean City or No. 1 Moorestown on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at GCIT.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays