Staff Writer

OCEAN CITY — In a way that only happens in swimming, both the Ocean City and Cherokee boys swim teams came out winners on Thursday afternoon at the Ocean City Aquatics center in the final tune-up of 2022 before the season really gets underway in earnest in early January.

The host Red Raiders posted some blistering times, shattering four school records in the dual meet, but Cherokee had plenty of its own to celebrate, as the Chiefs took first and third place in the final event of the day to pull out a dramatic 87-83 victory. Micah Lee, Noah Serrano, Collin Ergood and Sean Keefer posted a time of 3:49.81 to win the 400-meter relay, and the Cherokee team of Dimitriy Lee, Cole Evans, Connor Healy and Michael Colangelo took third in 4:07.96. That gave the Chiefs just enough points to best the Red Raiders and improve to 4-1.

Ocean City dropped to 2-2 despite setting new school marks in 200-meter relay (Tommy Armstrong, Gavin Neal, Pat Armstrong, Jackson Agnellini), the 50 free (Pat Armstrong), the 200 relay (Neal, Agnellini, Pat Armstrong and Matt Woodside) and the 100 backstroke (Tommy Armstrong).

Members of the Cherokee 400-meter relay team celebrate their win that clinched the meet for the Chiefs against Ocean City. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

“It came down to that (last relay). We knew Ocean City was very good, but we just fought. We had the energy, it was there, we battled and ended up touching the wall first,” said Cherokee senior Nicky Antonelli, who took third in the 100 fly and was part of the Cherokee 200-meter relay team that finished second. “This was a great meet. There were some great battles throughout. We were missing two of our best swimmers, but we worked through it. We expected it to be a close meet because last year we had the same result against them.”

Pat Armstrong went 24.11 seconds to win the 50 free and Woodside was a winner in the 200 free as Ocean City scored first-place finishes in five individual events. Cherokee countered with first-place finishes from Keefer in two events and Andrew Burmaster in the 100 breaststroke, and gobbled up enough second- and third-place finishes throughout the meet to ensure the Chiefs had a chance heading into the 400 relay.

“This gives us a lot of momentum,” Antonelli said. “We’re going to be putting a lot of practice in over the break and we’re getting better and better. We have about six or seven meets left (in the regular season) and we’re hoping to win every single one of them.”

The Cherokee girls team is now 3-2 this season after posting a 96-74 win over Ocean City. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

On the girls side, Cherokee rebounded from two straight losses to improve to 3-2 on the year, scoring a 96-74 win over Ocean City. Abby Zane and Heather O’Day each won a pair of events while sophomores Dakotah Cestare and Alexa Harris scored wins in the 200 and 500 meters, respectively.

“This pool is meters and we really don’t swim meters a lot, but we really banded together going into this meet. We knew it would be close because Ocean City always puts up a great fight,” Zane said. “It’s insanely tough (to come here and get a win) but we had a great lineup against them and our team really pulled together. We had a couple of close races and you could see some of our sophomores in the 200 and 500 who were coming off a travel meet and were really tired, but they pulled it out and got those wins and important points.”

Ocean City got a win from Rachel Stauffer in the 100 backstroke and she also took second in the 100 butterfly behind Zane. Ryan Cooke scored a second in the 50 free for Ocean City, as did Abby Hays in the 200 IM.

“I think this gives us momentum, especially going into the South Jersey Invitational, and we’re trying to get some state cuts (qualifying times),” Zane said. “We want to send some girls to states who haven’t been there before. And we’re trying to get some school records. We’re excited, we’re pumped up and we’re ready to go.”

Contact Dave O’Sullivan:; on Twitter @GDsullysays