Staff Writer

It’s never too early in the high school swimming season to think about the state playoffs, and that’s exactly what was on the minds of the Absegami boys and Cedar Creek girls teams during a meet at the Hess Aquatic Center in Mays Landing on Saturday morning.

Last winter, the Cedar Creek girls advanced all the way to the Group C South championship meet before falling to Haddonfield. For the Absegami boys, it’s a different story — the Braves missed out on states by just five power points, and already this season they look like a team on a mission to enjoy some postseason swimming.

The Absegami boys bounced back from a season-opening loss against St. Augustine Prep in a big way, taking down Cedar Creek 110-55. On the girls side it was all Cedar Creek, as the Pirates raced past Absegami, 11-57, in their season opener.

The Cedar Creek girls swimming team made it to the Group C South championship meet last year and the Pirates are aiming for a repeat performance in 2023. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

“We felt really good. We were just really looking for a win because we’re really looking to start out our season well, and we got that. We swam really well,” said Cedar Creek junior Kendra Canale, who won the 100 backstroke and finished second to Absegami’s Samia Ghazaz in the 200 IM. “We’re just looking for consistency and sort of a placeholder so we know where we want to go in the next couple of meets, and what to expect later in the season.”

Cedar Creek (1-0, 0-0 Cape-Atlantic League National) got a pair of freestyle wins in the 50 and 100 from Amber Klose, who also teamed up with Faith Klose, Canale and Abigail Clapp to win the 200 freestyle relay. Clapp and Faith Klose teamed up with Alana Crosson and Sara Gutierrez to win the 400 free relay. Absegami (0-2, 0-1 CAL American) got a big meet from Ghazaz, who won the 200 IM and 500 free, as well as Stephanie Ruales, who won the 200 free and 100 butterfly and was part of the 200 medley relay that finished second.

In the end, it was Cedar Creek’s depth and experience that won the day, as the Pirates racked up a bunch of second- and third-place finishes to put the meet away early.

“I feel really good. The mental game (of swimming) is the hardest part so I’m just trying to work on that and make sure I’m having fun while also improving,” Canale said. “Our goals this season are to keep getting personal bests and to make it as far as we can. We want to stay together as a team and make sure we’re all supporting each other. Last year’s team only had a few seniors, so this year we have a lot more upperclassmen. We also have a lot more speed, so I think that’s going to help us out.”

On the boys side, Absegami star Gerard Traynor won the 100 fly in 1:00.51 and he also took first place in the 100 backstroke. Myles Smalls, Jesse Bown and Adam Bailey all won multiple events as well, as the Braves scored a first-place finish in every event.

Jesse Bown was one of several Absegami swimming to win multiple events on Saturday during the Braves’ win over district rival Cedar Creek. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

“I’m seeing improvement in a lot of novice kids. There were 16 kids in the water today who had never swam in a meet before Thursday. So, to have that many kids swimming hard and swimming well is good to see. We’re also going after a few school records. Traynor just missed it in the fly, but he’ll get there. Overall, (so far) it’s been a great ride for a bunch of kids,” said Absegami coach Jim Winkler. “We’re really solid with a good group. Our top relay team was fourth at the CAL meet in a couple events last year and they have been getting better. Our goal is to be in that upper eschelon of those teams in the CAL American, which is really tough to do.”

Winkler said his boys team is ultra focused on making the playoffs. The Braves don’t want a repeat of what happened last year as they were left standing when the music stopped for the state playoffs.

“We missed the playoffs last year by five power points — and that’s among thousands of power points — so, just seeing a little bit of improvement could mean we can go to the state playoffs for the first time in Absegami swimming history,” coach Winkler said. “That’s a makeable long term goal. I think if we can get some of these novice guys to start putting up some better times, we’re going to get there.”

What’s next: Absegami travels to Ocean City on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Cedar Creek travels to Middle Township on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan:; on Twitter @GDsullysays