After years of county domination by Long Beach, Great Neck South stepped out of the shadows last season with an undefeated regular slate and the school's first county title. The team's prowess in relays was a big component of its 2009 success, and it showed in GNS' sixth-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay (1:28.30) at the state meet. All three of Great Neck's relays qualified for states.
Several key seniors have graduated, but underclassmen such as Samuel Mo and Patrick Yang look to keep the program afloat.
"He's well-accomplished in just about every event," coach Andy Berlin said of Mo. "I'm sure he'll be a top-five swimmer in all of his events this year."
One key sign of continued success: the team's second-place 200 medley relay team at last year's Nassau championships was made up entirely of eighth-graders and freshmen.
After finishing just 30 points behind Great Neck South at the county meet, Jericho is looking to improve on its second-place finish from last year. The team has graduated a lot of big contributors, but has plenty of talented underclassmen ready to step up.
"We're looking good, we're looking fast," coach Richard Stern said, pointing to the team's characteristically good depth as one reason why they're contenders again. Jericho's depth has been so good that the program has remained strong for years despite last season being the first time since 1997 that the team had a state qualifier. Joseph Na, a sprinter and butterfly specialist; Horace Patrick, who swims IM and breaststroke; and Kevin Wu, a long-distance swimmer, are some of the stars.
Nick Kiriazis, who finished 13th in diving last year at the county finals, leads an improving squad, and walk-on Jordan Bernstein could surprise a lot of people if he harnesses his raw talent.
Austin Kowalsky has already qualified for the state tournament in the 100 butterfly for Bellmore-Merrick. He stands a good shot at making states in the 50 and 500 free by the time the season ends. Kowalsky and Max Krackow (sprint freestylist) are just two bright spots for a team that should place high at counties.
Long Beach, meanwhile, will be looking to reclaim its throne as the dominant power after a year of "rebuilding" in which the team finished third at the Nassau championships. Diver Nicholas Smith, who took second place at the county meet (385.15), should be tops in the event this year, as last year's No. 1 has graduated. Nick Stoski, a freshman who specializes in the 200 free and breaststroke, and Chris Corrigan, a butterfly and freestyle swimmer, will also be a key. Cole Blum, a distance swimmer, is not just outstanding in the pool, but is also his class valedictorian.
Nicholas Spinella, who placed fourth at the state meet in the 100 backstroke (52.19), leads Sewanhaka.
But after finally succeeding last year, the target is squarely on Great Neck South's back.
"Great Neck South is not going to go down without a fight," Stern said. "On paper, this looks to be even closer of a meet than last year's, from top to bottom."