DeBlasio leads Hills to 5th title in a row
To some spectators it might seem like they've just grabbed a familiar DVD off the shelf. They know the plot, know there are some good action scenes but ultimately know the ending.
But the Suffolk team championships are a little different to Half Hollow Hills senior standout Matt DeBlasio. It's the same movie, sure, but each year he sees an old scene in a new way. Notices a member of the cast he hasn't before. Appreciates it differently.
"Every championship is great because not every team is the same," said DeBlasio, who was given the outstanding competitor award. "Kids leave, new kids come in. When I was on the team in eighth grade, my big brother was on the team and all these other older guys . . .
"You have new teammates every year."
And new teammates to celebrate with.
The script was the same for Hills, which won its fifth straight county championship, scoring 377 points. Hills is undefeated in five consecutive dual-meet seasons, league championships and Suffolk finals.
Sayville/Bayport-Blue Point finished second with 224 points and Ward Melville was third with 209.5.
DeBlasio was the meet's only individual double winner, placing first in the 200 yard IM (1:53.59) and 100 backstroke (52.47). DeBlasio also swam the lead leg on the winning 200-medley relay (1:40.17) and the anchor leg on the first place 400-freestyle relay (3:18.08).
"I don't imagine I'm racing just the people in my heat," DeBlasio said. "I imagine I'm racing Catholic High School champ Christian Yeager [St. Anthony's] and Nassau County champ Sam Mo [Great Neck South]. Because that's who I'm going to be racing at states and that's who my competition is. That's who I want to beat."
He'll have his chance soon enough. But for now DeBlasio can reflect on a Hills squad that earned a five-peat. Aside from DeBlasio's dual wins, Isaac Vingan was the only other Hills swimmer to win an individual event, taking first in the 500 freestyle (4:46.28). Otherwise, the team utilized its depth.
"As a team together, we're very strong," DeBlasio said. "And we always support each other, so I guess the confidence comes from everyone."
And it wasn't just the upperclassmen that contributed. Eighth-grader James Gordin was part of the winning 400 freestyle relay. Freshman Michael Mattera took second in the 100 backstroke (55.38) - second to DeBlasio.
"I kind of look at the younger classes and see where we're at," coach Jason Wiedersum said. "My older guys have four or five years of guys to look up to, because we've been successful for that amount of time. It's the underclassmen that I rely on to kind of grow up in the sport, sometimes before they should."
And certainly DeBlasio is helping raise the next generation of Hills stars.
"He's a natural born leader," Wiedersum said. "He's mentored these younger guys. He's all I could ask out of a captain, out of a senior and out of a guy the young guys look up to."